Evangelizing more durable, counterfeit-resistant IDs takes buy-in from everyone in the supply chain
All issuers have their own set of challenges when it comes to creating a new credential. The most educated enterprises such as government issuers have challenges, but they also bring the most resources to bear during the decision process. At the mid-level, organizations such as financial issuers are beginning to consider more durable card materials, but the vast majority of small to mid-volume issuers lack even basic education on material options.
When a credential issuer begins the process of creating a new card or identity document, there are many factors to take into account. Adding further complexity to the decision, these factors typically differ for each individual issuer.
“Every situation is different and there isn’t one single process that all issuers follow,” says Pierre Scaglia, global segment manager for Secure Credentials at PPG Industries.
Government issuers are different from financial card issuers who are yet again different from corporations. Issuers from each of these markets often take different paths and rely on different advisors when selecting card materials.
Though there are always exceptions, common paths have traditionally included:
- Government issuers: The agency’s project leads confer with subject matter experts from the system integrator’s team
- Financial card issuers: The institution’s payment card leads work with their chosen card manufacturer
- Corporate issuers: A company’s facilities manager or physical security personnel defers to their local access control system installer.
Clearly the various paths result in very different outcomes. At the government level, a more consultative approach is far more likely to include discussions of various advanced card materials, as well as the durability and anti-counterfeiting capabilities of each option. At the corporate level, the tendency is often to default to the cheapest option or the one that the local installer finds most comfortable and familiar.
Still, at all levels there are two constants in the decision-making process – durability and cost.
Though it need not require the same degree of involvement for smaller issuers, there are valuable lessons that can be learned from the approach taken at government issuer level. “Some very simple changes or considerations at the start of a program can greatly improve both the security and lifespan of any card,” says Scaglia. He suggests that even small volume issuers can benefit by opting for higher quality card materials.
Some very simple tweaks at the start of a program can greatly improve a card’s security and lifespan. The challenge is getting this word out to issuers across levels
The first question any issuer must answer when evaluating card materials is how long they want it to last and what, if any, card technologies will be embedded, says Scaglia.
“Before EMV a lifespan of two to three years was common for financial cards, driver license issuers typically wanted four or five years and national ID programs were looking for 10 years,” says Dave Tushie, technical and standards representative at the International Card Manufacturers Association.
For cards with a one- to three-year lifespan, many choose PVC to keep the cost down, says Neville Pattinson, vice president for Government Affairs, Standards and Business development at Gemalto. “Bank cards tend to be PVC with embossed personalization,” he adds. Cheaper materials have often been considered sufficient, so long as electronics weren’t embedded in the cards and they only had to last a short period of time.
Beyond three years other materials start to emerge. Composite cards that use polyester, Teslin or other materials – in addition to or in place of – PVC, become a virtual necessity. These materials are used by states for driver licenses and by U.S. federal agencies for the PIV and Defense Department Common Access Cards, says Pattinson.
When issuers want cards to last longer than six years composite cards are still the norm, but additional materials often come into play. In addition to polyester materials with Teslin, polycarbonate is also an option, says Tushie.
MorphoTrust USA provides the majority of U.S. states with driver licenses and has a process it works through with states, says Roland Fournier, product line director at the company. “We talk to customers and we want to understand their decision-making criteria,” he explains. “It comes down to a cost and security conversation with durability also a factor.”
Other determining factors include whether the issuance model will be centralized or decentralized/over-the-counter, and what kind of personalization technology will be used. “Understand the requirements is key to making the most appropriate recommendation,” Fournier adds.
State issuers also want materials that are unique to them and cannot be obtained readily by counterfeiters. “They want non-commercial materials, something that isn’t available in the wild or easy to get your hands on,” Fournier explains. “They want something that’s tightly controlled and unique to a vendor.”
MorphoTrust has worked with card material vendors to create substrates that specifically fit an issuers needs. “They come back to us and give us sample materials, we then personalize it and run it through its paces to see if it meets our requirements,” Fournier adds.
With counterfeit driver licenses on the rise, card material suppliers have to keep tight control of the supply chain. “We do not disclose how the cards are made, and we have to make sure the materials we come up with can be produced consistently over a long period of time,” he says.
Comfort and cost
While government agencies and state driver license issuers are moving to advanced card materials in pursuit of greater security and durability, the vast majority of smaller volume issuers haven’t made the change from pure PVC, says ICMA’s Tushie. He cites cost and comfort as key hurdles.
Composite cards are more expensive than pure PVC, but the differences aren’t as much as they were a couple of years ago, says Tushie. “In conversations I’ve had with vendors, they say they can get very close to the cost of PVC,” he adds. “The increased cost could be just pennies on each card.”
While the cost might only be nominally higher, another issue is the comfort level of working with new materials. “There are different manufacturing processes and equipment involved with polyester that you don’t have with PVC,” Tushie says. “The industry has grown up with PVC – the processes are stable and understood. There’s a reluctance to change because it’s so well known.”
The industry has grown up with PVC – There’s a reluctance to change because it’s so well known. overcoming this is key to convincing issuers that the cheapest option is usually not the best option
Educating issuers across market segments
PVC has been the standard material for many types of credentials, but even smaller issuers are becoming aware of the value and benefits of other materials. “Even outside of government-level projects, issuers are starting to engage in active dialogues about these different materials,” says Tushie.
Still there is a vast disconnect in the education among government issuers and small and mid-volume issuers. Smaller guys – such as colleges and corporations – are often particularly unaware. “It’s a constant education process, as the small issuers typically haven’t received the education necessary to understand card life expectancy or total cost of ownership,” says Gemalto’s Pattinson. “Usually they want the cheapest card as budget is low and employee or student turnover is viewed as the driving factor.”
EMV cards with contact and contactless interfaces have been the standard for some time, but still most issuers use straight PVC, says Tushie. In the U.S., however, issuers are sensitive to the additional cost of the electronics in the card and they want to try and recoup that cost with a four or five year lifespan. Many are starting to look at advanced card materials to help with that longevity.
Meanwhile, the education continues. Card material manufacturers are out educating issuers and system integrators all the time, says PPG’s Scaglia.
A common misconception educators battle is that a credential can only be constructed from one type of material. In reality multiple materials can and often should be used. “We emphasize that it’s not an ‘either/or’ situation. To create the ideal card for your issuance, you can combine materials,” he explains.
As issuers seek a longer life credential and continue to battle counterfeiters, they must turn to advanced card materials. Disseminating this information requires education aimed at all layers in the supply chain. If small integrators, card resellers and local installers understand the benefits, it is far more likely that the level of understanding among small- and mid-tier issuers will follow.