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Europe is on its way ... slowly

Week 03, 2008

Omnicard, as a conference, is the best demonstration no smart card application can any longer be considered from a national point of view.

International standardization has been present since the beginning in telecoms: every user takes for granted a SIM card allows a phone to work anywhere on Earth. In the payment industry, the payment organizations (Visa, MasterCard, JCB, …) have been working for years on international acceptance of their products. The beginning of 2008 is a milestone for European level payment with the beginning of SEPA era. Cards have to become fully interoperable all over the Europe area in the next few years.

International standardization is a basic for identity documents: a passport that would not guarantee international acceptance would have little use. But, now, there are European projects in every subpart of the Identity segment:

  • ECC: European Citizen Card
  • RTP: European Registered Traveler Program
  • e-AT: Residence card for non-EU citizens
  • e-EC: Electronic Emergency Card
  • e-DL: Electronic Driving License
  • e-EHIC: Electronic European Health Insurance Card
  • e-CRC: Electronic Car Registration Card

This list sounds great! What sounds not so great are the difficulties in making European standards progress. In the case of the ID card for instance, eight countries have already implemented an eID (electronic ID card): Finland, Belgium, Austria, Estonia, Sweden, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. The issue is that these cards are not interoperable at all. Not only the technology is not interoperable, but also their applications are radically different. They have different functions, different ways of operation, different characteristics. For instance: Belgium already sports around 600 applications for its eID, in Austria, the eID card plays the role of a social security card, in Portugal there is no unique citizen ID number. The European CEN TC224 workgroup is expected to have finalized its standard shortly. But then, some member states may never implement the standard…

The situation is not much better on the e-EHIC, the Electronic Health European Insurance Card (cf. Focus below).

We all know European standardization is a complex task. We will have to wait a few more years to have all European standardized documents.

Thierry Spanjaard
Chief Editor
Smart Insights