Andy Williams, Contributing Editor
Some 100,0000 smart cards with optical stripes have been delivered to the States of New Delhi and Gujarat in India as part of the first phase of the country’s vehicle registration program. According to the supplying company, Luxembourg-based Gemplus, this will likely be the largest drivers license/vehicle registration project of its kind. With 100 million cards anticipated during the next five years, it’s going to be hard to top.
Other states expected to be involved in the project include Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. Together, according to Gemplus, the four states are expected to account for 30 million cards within the next three years.
India began looking at smart card-based vehicle registration programs in 2001. The registration certification books the country has been using are prone to misuse, which can lead to identity fraud, theft, and, more importantly, at least for the government, uncollected taxes and fines. Besides looking to solve those issues, India hopes to cut down on paperwork and administrative processes.
The country’s first step was to create a standard that would guarantee interoperability between the various state transport departments that were to implement the system. That led to the development of SCOSTA (Smart Card Operating System for Transport Applications), a product designed by the National Informatics Centre, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology and the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur. Also participating was the Smart Card Forum of India (SCAFI), a non-profit, multi-industry organization set up to promote the acceptance of smart cards.
India intends for all its states to adhere to SCOSTA specifications when implementing their smart card-based vehicle registration systems. The Indian Federal Government published the SCOSTA specs in 2002. With its open standard, the government’s aim was to ensure that all systems deployed nationwide would be secure and interoperable.
SCOSTA supports both password-based and key-based authentication of users. The driver’s license and vehicle registration specs include secure key management systems that ensure that only officials authorized to change the card data can do so and that it is not possible to create forged cards.
In December 2003, Gemplus became the first international smart card manufacturer to be SCOSTA-certified. Subsequently, the company was selected as a card supplier to the program by the project’s prime contractor and system integrator, Shonkh Technologies,
The chip stores statutory data about the vehicle, its registration and the owner. Information about vehicle history, pollution control certification, and other vehicle documents are stored on the optical strip.
According to Gemplus, the new system allows police or transportation authorities to immediately access information stored on the driver’s smart card via a portable terminal. Once the card is inserted, the officer is able to retrieve data about the vehicle and its owner, as well as records regarding certificate of pollution control, etc. All data stored on the card is also concurrently available in a central database hosted by the State Transport Department. This allows the policeman to verify the legal status of a registered vehicle.
Initially, the optical smart card only includes the vehicle registration application. But the plan is to eventually extend the card to support additional processes, such as petrol loyalty, an e-purse, and insurance information.
The card is expected to drastically reduce the incidence of vehicle theft. Under the present system, vehicle owners are unable to efficiently combat theft, as the proof of registration is easily forged. With the smart card, however, vehicle credentials and history details are stored both on a tamper-proof chip and the State Transport Department’s central server.
A major benefit to the government is the increased revenue the new card system generates. It will now be easier to collect traffic fines, registration fees, and taxes, while reducing vehicle registration processing times by more than 60%.