swiss-army-idBy Adam Ross and Klaus Schmeh, cryptovision. 

An eID document is like a Swiss Army knife – it supports many different applications. However, the full potential of eID cards is still rarely, if at all, used. This article introduces several advanced eID use cases that have already been implemented in practice.

With close to 160 million citizens, Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country. As part of an ambitious Presidential initiative, adult Nigerians and resident legal aliens currently receive advanced multipurpose electronic identity cards. Due to the size of the Nigerian population, the Nigerian eID card project is one of the largest of its kind in history. The full deployment will include more than 100 million card holders.

The Nigerian identity card is the only eID document in the world that features a payment application. This enables use cases such as electronic benefit transfer, pension payment or tax refund. As around 50 million Nigerians are currently not being formally served by the financial sector, the Nigerian eID card represents the largest “bank the unbanked” operation in history.
Another benefit to having an electronic ID card in Nigeria, is that some third parties are also able to leverage information from the card. When you see eID schemes in Europe or elsewhere, the document itself is usually controlled by one issuing agency – normally from the country’s state printing agency and this agency is normally the only one that has complete access to the information contained within the card. However, in Nigeria there are other agencies that need to make use of the very advanced data stored in the card, as well. Therefore, a federation between the different agencies takes place. Each of these agencies can have data owner- ship of their own particular well of data.

The applications provided by the Nigerian eID card show that an identity document can be used for much more than only identity checking or border control. This can also be seen in the USA. As is well-known, the US has a very fragmented identity market. Only the passport is used for a federal identity card. In addition, each state issues different kinds of identity cards of its own. As there is a strong demand for having a medical identity device (it is estimated that every year the US is victim to about $60 Billion of medical identity fraud), most insurance companies are issuing some kind of credential, too, whether it be a health card or a smart-card-based health card.

We are now seeing some of the very first projects where health card data is being put onto an electronic identity card. This has the benefit of actually being able to store patient clipboard data – for example blood type, allergies, beneficiary data, actual coverage of individuals through the insurance company, special medication or any new drug interactions. All this data could be accessed by different types of agencies within the processing system.

It is also possible to use a mobile phone as a secure reader to read data on the eID document using NFC. One can read the data either with the presentation of the eID PIN or via a card access number printed on the document itself. The latter method is much more suitable for a read out where the owner of the card might be unconscious or physically unable to present the PIN himself.

This ultimately leads to money saving for the insurance companies through the reduction of medical ID fraud, by having a very high degree of medical information written to a card that they control. This means that it can also be used in a different way. For example, when a patient goes into the hospital to register for a service or visit for an appointment, he or she can very quickly be on-boarded by the presentation of the card to a machine or a kiosk and that information can be read from the card and then used to pre-fill forms or direct the patient to services within the hospital. We believe that this will meet different levels of consumer satisfaction, because they are able to get the services that they need specifically targeted to them, much faster.

This is a trend at the moment in the US. We are starting to see small commercial enterprises issuing fundamentally electronic ID cards that are specific to their services. Because they are able to make use of these security mechanisms and protection profiles that have been derived for travel documents or eID documents, they are able to implement and tailor these for specific use cases across various industries, where people ID validation is of para- mount importance. It means that these issuing agencies are able to reduce fraud, while still meeting the complex data requirements that come from acquiring health information.

In conclusion, we can see that identity documents are like Swiss Army knives – the areas they can cover and the functional benefits they can provide are almost endless. They just need to be explored.

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