The government plans to begin replacing all Hong Kong smart identity cards with more secure ones in four years, a Legislative Council paper shows. It is estimated that the replacement process - expected to last from 2018 to 2022 - will cost about HK$3.3 billion. In the paper, which was released yesterday for the Legco panel on security's January 6 meeting, the government said that the existing smart ID cards, which were issued between 2003 and 2007, would exceed their serviceable lifespan of 10 years by 2017. This would mean that the cards were gradually becoming more susceptible to damage and malfunction. The government said the introduction of new ID cards would avoid "circumstances where a large number of [smart ID cards would fail] in a short period of time". This might cause "grave public inconvenience" if the Immigration Department was not able to handle all replacement applications. The government plans to enhance the chip technology on the cards to improve security and speed data retrieval. The cards will support wireless technology, and have expanded storage capacity for a higher-resolution photo as well as updated fingerprint templates for more secure and accurate identity verification. The durability of the cards will also be improved with the use of the latest card material, which will also have a better appearance and offer improved quality in text printing. The government said that although the number of forged smart ID cards detected in recent years remained low, there had been seizures of forged smart ID cards in Europe. "We expect that as technology continues to advance, cases of forgery of our smart cards may become more prevalent if we do not introduce any new security features or chip-architecture technology," the government said in the paper. The Immigration Department will set up nine replacement centres across the city during the process, the paper says. There are about nine million smart ID cards in circulation in Hong Kong, according to the report.