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Technology

Design of new Hong Kong smart identity card revealed

Next-generation card features enhanced security, built-in RFID technology and higher-resolution photo to support facial recognition

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 November, 2017, 1:05pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 November, 2017, 11:27pm

After a three-year wait, the design of the much-anticipated new Hong Kong smart identity card was revealed on Wednesday, boasting security features to prevent counterfeiting and eliciting praise from local residents.

According to the latest Legislative Council papers submitted by the Security Bureau, the new smart ID card is pink, light blue and light green in colour, with a photo of the holder on the left and a smallstereo laser image of the portrait on the right.

It will feature a new see-through window bearing the card number in the top right-hand corner. An image of the Hong Kong skyline will appear when the back of the card is examined under UV light.

The papers read: “The Immigration Department will take the opportunity to introduce a number of new state-of-the-art security features … to ensure strong protection against photo substitution and counterfeiting.”

The card will come with a hologram with wave and 3D effects and a multiple-pattern background. Other security features intended to make the card hard to fake include rainbow printing, microprinted text and ink with optically variable properties.

It’s good to upgrade the card because there are so many fake IDs nowadays
Gigi Mo, Hongkonger

The next-generation smart ID card system is estimated to have cost HK$54.6 million (US$7 million) this financial year, of which 40 per cent went towards system development and another 40 per cent on building card replacement centres.

Hongkongers were by and large welcoming of the changes, both for aesthetic and security purposes.

Chow Wing-foon, 65, hailed the “brighter” card and described the new photo as “clearer in the new design”.

Gigi Mo, 34, believed card protection would be better, adding: “It’s good to upgrade the card because there are so many fake IDs nowadays.”

But Veron Wong, 35, said the new design was “not very different from the old one”.

“It’s normal to upgrade the ID card because many things need to be updated such as information and security protection,” the seafood retail worker added.

About 8.8 million existing cards will be replaced starting from the fourth quarter of next year. Smart card holders will be called up to have their cards replaced in phases in accordance with the year of their birth.

The existing cards, issued between 2003 and 2007, will exceed their optimum 10-year serviceable lifespan by this year, meaning they will gradually become more susceptible to damage and malfunction.

The Immigration Department will set up nine replacement centres across the city. The exercise will take four years to complete.

The new system uses built-in radio frequency identification, or RFID, transmission technology to improve security and data retrieval speeds.

The cards will support wireless technology and have expanded storage capacity for a higher-resolution photo to support facial recognition technology. They are meant to provide a platform for alternative biometric authentication on top of fingerprint verification.

Fingerprint templates will be upgraded for more secure and accurate identity verification.

Why Hong Kong has Mao to thank for ID cards

The durability of the cards will also be enhanced with the use of the latest card material, which will offer improved quality for text printing.

The department pledged to conduct privacy assessments through independent consultants and submit reports to the city’s privacy watchdog to ensure personal information in the new system could be fully protected.

Additional reporting by Yujing Liu