Smart card technology vendors are betting that the passing of the United States governments latest worker identification deadline on Oct. 27 will help push use of their products further into the commercial sector and beyond.
The governments Homeland Security Presidential Directive-12 mandate requires that all federal agencies distribute certified PIV (personal identity verification) smart cards to their employees.
As a result of the deadline that has forced organizations including the Department of Defense to distribute millions of new smart cards to workers, makers of related software and devices say that millions more of the IDs will be put into the hands of workers outside the government sector.
First up will be the types of companies you might expect, including government contractors and so-called first responders who interact with federal agencies and law enforcement officials who already carry smart cards, said Jason Hart, chief executive of ActivIdentity, whose software was chosen to support the 3.5 million HSPD cards being distributed by the Department of Defense.
Beyond those workers Hart contends that security-oriented industries such as the health care and financial services sectors will soon begin handing out smart cards to end users to replace more traditional forms of authentication.
Since the devices can be used for everything from opening the door to a server room to encrypting data on a laptop computer, businesses may favor smart card systems over other single sign-on technologies that only address one type of application.
"We truly view HSPD-12 as a starting point because as this first wave of adoption provides success stories, and people see how the cards themselves are being used, private-sector companies will begin to get a better of how many tasks they can serve, and what the cost savings can be," Hart said.
"If we look at how other countries are adopting smart cards and how that has affected the proliferation of an ecosystem beyond government applications, its easy to see all the possibilities that already exist."
For instance, Hart said that in Germany, where the government has distributed an estimated 80 million smart cards to citizens since adopting the devices as part of its national health care system in 1993, people are using the devices to register new bank accounts or certify online transactions as private companies have begun tapping into the reach of the cards.
Since the IDs already hold all of a carriers personal details and have been verified by the government, the authentication tools allow businesses to trust the data they provide and to use them in a variety of tasks.
"When you can walk into a bank and hand them this single card that has your picture on it, and the bank can scan it and get all of your personal data in a format that has already been certified by the government, you imagine how much easier the process of opening a bank account, or conducting some other form of business can be," he said.