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Verifying ePassports with your smartphone: The good, the bad and the ugly

Maarten Wegdam
Managing Partner, InnoValor, The Netherlands

  • Using an NFC-capable smartphone as a simple way to verify the authenticity of ePassports;
  • Empowering professionals and the public to verify ePassports without training;
  • Reading personal information from ePassports with NFC for efficient processing.

Increasingly, passports, but also other government-issued identity documents (identity cards, electronic driver licences), contain a contactless (RFID) chip. This chip can be used to verify the authenticity of these documents. In addition, it contains reliable information about the holder and a high-resolution photo suitable for face recognition. For example, Automated Border Control gateways use this chip, as do advanced hardware scanners. There is however a major opportunity in reading this chip using modern smartphones that have Near Field Communication (NFC) capabilities, since verifying the authenticity of ePassports can then be done anywhere using a smartphone that most people carry anyway, without relying on dedicated hardware that is cumbersome to carry and/or is too expensive for many use cases. This provides new technology that is simple to use, not only for professionals, but also for the public. In addition, reading the personal information from the chip provides opportunities for efficient processing of this information. In this presentation we give an overview of the opportunities and the challenges we have encountered in pilots and first real-life deployments such as the Dutch police for identity verification in the street. 
Dr Maarten Wegdam is Managing Partner and founder of InnoValor, Dutch company that provides research-based advice and software in the area of digitalization, with an emphasis on digital trust, identity and privacy. Mr Wegdam has an MSc and PhD in computer science and worked for several R&D companies including Alcatel-Lucent, Bell Lab, and as an Assistant Professor for the University of Twente (NL). He advises government, banks and service providers on a strategic level on digital identities, eID and ePassports. He is also a regular lecturer and guest lecturer on digital identities and identity verification for several Dutch universities. InnoValor recently introduced a software product called ReadID, which can read and verify the chip in ePassports on smartphones using NFC. The Dutch police is the launching customer for this product.

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