xwave plastic: not your average smart card

While governments are not frequently applauded for efficiency, xwave is hoping they will soon be poster children for a streamlined approach to security management.

That’s because the Halifax-based IT solution provider is offering a new all-in-one credit-card-sized security device that is capable of storing multiple user IDs and passwords, and is targeting it primarily at the public sector.

The cards, based on technology developed by San Jose-based StorCard Inc., offer significantly more storage capacity than other similarly sized pieces of plastic commonly used today, said Bill Heil, vice-president of business development and marketing for StorCard.

“The capacity is enormous compared to what is found on credit cards and smart cards today. Our product for xwave has 100MB of storage on it. Credit cards have 200 bytes; smart cards are just 64KB.

This surplus storage space allows the cards to store more info in three key areas, according to Heil. First is authentication information, such as passwords, personal identification numbers (PINs) and multiple biometric data, “including your iris, your hand geometry, your fingerprint and your photograph.”

The second area centres around authorization: determining what parts of an organization an employee is permitted to access. “These are the equivalent of having keys, so (with the card) I’m allowed to have access to these particular networks, or go into these buildings,” said Heil.

Finally, the card can store information that is required to run a particular application. An example could include a government worker having to provide information stored on the card in order to access sensitive, protected documents.

“It could be your whole travel profile,” added Heil, referring to a person’s itinerary when going abroad. “(It could include) where you’ve been and timestamps of when you crossed borders.”

Canada-U.S. border agents might in fact be using these new cards in the near future. Canada Customs and Revenue Agency is one of the government bodies that xwave is focusing on, and for good reason: according to Colette Gentes-Hawn, spokesperson for the Agency, Canada Customs is ramping up its use of such advanced security technology in the wake of the 9/11 tragedy.

“A lot of our new technology (has followed) Sept. 11, in that we have additional funds for additional technology,” she said.

Technology that has already been deployed includes the use of bar codes for trucking firms that make regular trips across the border.

“We look at …(an) importer’s reputation, how they keep the books and whether they pay the bills, and then we decide that instead of having to report to us every single time that they cross the border they can do so on a monthly, yearly basis, whatever,” said Gentes-Hawn.

The Agency is also poised to deploy iris-scanning technology at Pearson International Airport in Toronto and Vancouver International airport by late March.

“We take a picture of the back of the iris and that becomes your identifier, so the next time you come back from Canada on a trip, you simply walk up to the kiosk and a machine recognizes the eye,” said Gentes-Hawn. “Should you have bought anything while you were abroad, you simply drop (a) card into a box and charge it to your credit card.”

The iris technology was developed by Iridian Technologies Inc. of Moorestown, N.J. and sold to Canada Customs by IBM. With a proven track record for adopting such security products, it’s no wonder that xwave is looking not only at Customs as a potential adopter, but also other government arms that include Citizenship and Immigration, the Department of National Defence and the RCMP.

“We think the government will be the lead market for this time,” said Don McLure, director of sales for xwave in Ottawa. “Initially, we’re targeting [the federal government], but as we progress, definitely the provincial governments are something we are very active with.”