By Hervé Naullet, Paragon ID.

It has been almost 20 years since the first rollout of the ICAO electronic/biometric passports. For most of these programs, the personalized data & picture of the citizen were securely printed and protected onto a paper-based datapage, and electronically stored in the contactless component located inside the cover of the passport. 

Recently, a significant number of biometric passports are switching to a polycarbonate based datapage, where the citizen data and photograph are laser engraved within the polycarbonate layer. The polycarbonate (PC) material provides unique benefits, such as the ability to be a mono-bloc assembly, as well as offering advanced security features similar to those available for eID Cards, Driver Licenses or resident permit cards. Similarly, such PC assembly is a great placeholder for the contactless component and its antenna, transforming the datapage into an eDatapage. 

Some specific challenges have to be addressed, starting with the negative user experience of handling a thick rigid polycarbonate eDatapage within a paper based passport booklet that was once very flexible. The other challenge is also to ensure that the eDatapage is securely attached to the booklet and that it does not separate from the cover page or from the other visa pages. 

It is vital that such a security sensitive travel document does not fall apart. Manufacturing eDatapages also requires a unique know-how and dedicated equipment, thus making the technology gap potentially impressive, but also threatening, because of the required investment and learning curve. As an expert in contactless technologies for the eID and ePassport markets, Paragon ID has been working over the recent years to address these very specific challenges, with the aim of supporting national printers and smart card manufacturers involved in passport programs in their transition to such technology. 

A first breakthrough is an ultra-thin and fully white contactless inlay assembly, embedding innovative inductive coupling technology based on copper wired antenna and the Infineon CoM-CL module. Nowadays, the standard thickness of available eDatapages is within on average 800μm or even above the 1000μm mark. Thanks to Paragon ID owned technology, the passport booklet would be equipped with a thin fully ICAO compliant 100% PC eDatapage, with the potential of being less than 500μm. As discussed with industry experts, a thinner eDatapage is not just about making savings on material. It also has a significant impact on the durability of the booklet itself, not forgetting that a biometric passport could suffer from severe usage conditions. 

Combined with the Infineon thin module, the inlay is fully white on both sides, meaning it does not require an extra layer to whiten the assembly. By construction, the module insertion is “anti-crack” enabled, ensuring high durability even within harsh conditions. As the inlay is fully flat with almost no extra thickness within the module area, there are very limited constraints in regards to the security design. The assembly can also benefit from see-through windows enabling some more advanced security features. Overall, such an eDatapage can embed all known security capabilities should these be tactile, printed, or hologram-related features. This ultra-thin inlay can also be made available equipped with a flex and highly durable hinge. Converted into an eDatapage relying upon conventional flat press technology, the eDatapage can easily be sown together with visa pages, for a biometric passport benefiting from a great aesthetic, compared to booklets made with a thick datapage and rigid hinge. It should be noted that thanks to the specially designed hinge structure, the eDatapage is a 100% PC monobloc assembly: the eDatapage cannot be delaminated within its structure. The hinge itself can be secured enabling specific characteristics. 

As mentioned above, there is no need for investment into specific hinge related equipment, as the eDatapage assembly is obtained equipped with the hinge right after the lamination process. The manufacturing of eDatapages can easily be achieved without specific additional investment or skill acquisition. It’s worth noting that the stitching of the hinge has been proven onto standard book binding equipment. 

The adoption of 100% polycarbonate eDatapages, allowing for new security features, is becoming a necessity. Carefully assessing and selecting the right technology can make this transition effort significantly easier. Choosing a more flexible, thinner and more durable eDatapage to be inserted in highly secure biometric travel documents will speed up the adoption process by citizens and by security sensitive governmental authorities. 

More information, contact Hervé Naullet at Paragon ID: Herve. 

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