IHS: ePasports still face political, bureaucratic barriers to widespread adoption

Despite their ability to help authorities around the world fight terrorism and international crime, smart electronic passports or ePassports, as they are more commonly referred to, still face political opposition as well as government red tape in countries around the world, according to IHS.

In a statement, the firm said their research indicates that ePassports will experience relatively weak shipment growth in the coming years. Global shipments of ePassports will rise to 175 million units in 2019, up from 113 million in 2013, representing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.6 percent during the six-year period.  

However, while expansion may appear to be strong, IHS said that it actually amounts to the slowest growth for any segment of the worldwide government electronic identification (ID) market. In comparison, shipments of electronic identification for use as drivers’ licenses, healthcare cards and national ID credentials all are expected to enjoy double-digit CAGRs from 2013 through 2019. Shipments of ePassports will rise at only half the rate of the fastest-growing form of electronic government identification: national IDs.

“Programs utilizing ePassports face a host of challenges, including government legislation, country risk, political opposition and economic concerns,” said Wincey Tang, digital ID & IT security analyst at IHS. “This multitude of obstacles is slowing the growth of ePassports compared to other electronic ID systems. The major question is whether the need for improved border security will ever be strong enough to overcome the challenges created by these barriers.”

The ePassport supplements the traditional paper passport, adding a microcontroller chip that contains biometric information used to authenticate travelers’ identities. These chips employ the same kind of technology used in contactless smart cards, allowing wireless data transfer of ID data. Biometric information stored on these devices includes facial, fingerprint and iris recognition data

Some countries have embraced ePassport technology more enthusiastically than others.

In Australia, for example, IHS is predicting the majority of passports will contain an embedded microcontroller by the end of 2015. Additionally, countries such as Austria, Denmark, Italy, Malaysia, the Philippines and Hong Kong are also mature ePassport markets.

On the other hand, some markets historically have experienced more political unrest, which has resulted in interruptions to the deployment of ePassports.

For example, India’s major deployment remains on hold, missing the planned 2013 launch. Other countries that are heavily affected by governmental challenges despite the increased need for enhanced ID security at the borders include Germany, Ukraine and Indonesia.

Overall, Asia-Pacific region accounted for the highest number of ePassport shipments in 2013, at 40 percent of the global market. This was closely followed by Europe with 32 percent. The smallest region was the Middle East and Africa, estimated to have taken only 8 percent of global ePassport shipments in the same year.

For more information about the new IHS report entitled, "E-Government & Healthcare ID Cards - 2014," visit https://technology.ihs.com/433825/electronic-government-healthcard-id-cards-report-2014