Smart passport field narrows to four

Smart passport field narrows to four

The State Department has chosen four vendor teams to provide smart chips, antennas, software and any gear necessary to embed biometric information within the covers of U.S. passports.

The teams chosen for this test phase of the program are led by:

  • SuperCom Ltd. of New York and Raanana, Israel

  • BearingPoint Inc. of McLean, Va.

  • Axalto of Amsterdam

  • Infinion AG of Munich.

'We are still looking at pilot production starting at the end of this year,' said Frank Moss, deputy assistant secretary for passport services. State's schedule calls for the department to begin providing biometric passports to tourists in February [see GCN story].

The department received more than a dozen proposals for the work. The four companies will each receive payments in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for their participation, Moss said.

'We are looking at different types of antennas and different substrates,' he said. 'The chip is only part of it. We are looking at chip durability and chip reliability, and the ability to integrate the products into passport covers.'

State eventually may choose one or two suppliers for the job, Moss said.

The department now produces about 7 million passports annually. When State rolls out its biometric passport capability, it plans to charge applicants a $10 fee to pay for the biometric feature.

The contractor or contractors that provide the covers, which the Government Printing Office will combine with the passports' inside pages, likely would get a portion of the resulting revenues, amounting to $35 million or more annually.

Craig Diffie, director of field marketing for Axalto, said State initially had sought to buy the equipment via the General Services Administration's Smart Access Common ID Smart Card program in a procurement launched last year. A bid protest scuttled the plan and the department later rebid the work via the Government Printing Office.

'The field of players was enlarged because it was not limited to the GSA smart-card contract,' Diffie said.

He added that the contracts awarded last week call for the each of the four companies to deliver seven test kits that State will use to try out the other equipment recommended. 'It includes the reader, the software to install the reader and the software to see the data being written to the electronic component,' Diffie said.

SuperCom said in a statement that State's biometric passport project is the largest and most advanced such program in the world. 'The scope of the project based on the request for proposals is estimated at 50 million passports over five years,' SuperCom said.


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