Transportation Security Administration, Defense Department to roll out ActivIdentity smart cards

Digital identity provider ActivIdentity announced this week that it won key, two-year contracts to provide identification card technology to two federal government agencies charged with safeguarding Americans.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Department of Defense (DoD) are deploying smart card software from ActivIdentity - a move that complies with the Homeland Security Presidential Directive-12 (HSPD-12) Friday deadline - that mandates the federal government roll out the technology to its millions of employees and contractors.

"This week is the first deadline for issuance by all departments of a single card within each department," Jason Hart, CEO of Fremont, Calif.-based ActivIdentity, told SCMagazine.com. "Now you've got all of the agencies deploying their first card, unlike the past where each agency had their own identification system. You've now got this unified identity card across all branches of government. It really is a historic first step."

Each card receives a cryptographic government signature and stores copies of its holder's fingerprints, thereby "irrefutably proving" someone's identity, Hart said. Agencies plan to use the cards for physical and logical access.

The ActivIdentity software will be delivered to about 70,000 TSA employees and 3.5 million military servicemen. Much of HSPD-12, signed in 2004, is modeled after the DoD's deployment of public key infrastructure (PKI), said Robert Brandewie, the company's senior vice president of public sector solutions.

The TSA is a part of the Department of Homeland Security.

As the smart card market grows, identification cards for first responders and transport workers are not too far away, Hart said. For one, they could be used to verify the identities of emergency officials in the wake of a natural disaster, such as Hurricane Katrina.

Click here to email Dan Kaplan.

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