HP’s India lab secures paper documents

Hewlett-Packard Co. has developed a technology at its labs in Bangalore that secures paper documents against fraud, and integrates paper documents with electronic processes by allowing them to be used as a medium for transferring data.

Paper documents will remain in use all over the world, not just in India, and the need to verify they are authentic holds back the speed of doing business, S. Ramani, director for science and technology at HP Labs India, said on Thursday.

Checking that a document such as college transcript or a driving license is genuine, or that hasn’t been modified since it was issued, often requires sending it back to the issuing authority, he said.

To avoid that, HP Labs has developed technology it calls Trusted Hardcopy, which embeds the information contained in the paper document in a 2D (two-dimensional) barcode printed on the back. Using software developed by HP, the barcode can be read by a standard scanner, and the information verified at a Web site set up by the authority that issued the document, or by an independent verification agency.

In a pilot program that HP is running with the International Institute of Information Technology, in Bangalore, students graduating from the institute were issued transcripts with the barcodes printed on them.

“Our software is integrated with the database, so that whenever a mark sheet is printed from the database, the software issues a barcode which is inserted into it,” said K.S.R. Anjaneyulu, department director at the lab.

The certificates issued can be now scanned and verified for their authenticity on an institute Web site. If the document or barcode has been tampered with, this will be revealed when it is compared with the document stored on the institute’s database, Ramani said.

Using the barcode also removes the need to manually input the data from paper documents into an electronic system, as the data can be read from the barcode printed on the paper.

“By embedding the information from the paper document in the barcode, we are preventing information in paper documents from getting disconnected from the rest of the system,” Anjaneyulu said.

“The new technology is effectively “networking the paper world,” he added.

The technology can also be used by agencies like the government to issue authenticated documents online. The document with the barcode can be then printed by the person requesting the document, Ramani said.

HP’s business units are interested in commercializing Trusted Hardcopy, Ramani said. HP Labs India is also working on new applications of the technology such as using mobile phones with built-in cameras to take a snap of a barcode, for example on a driver’s license, and transmitting the image on the mobile service channel for verification and updating.

As part of HP Labs India’s research in the area of pen-based interfaces, the lab has developed a stylus sensitive touch-pad, called the “gesture-based keyboard,” that enables users to enter text in the Devnagri script used in many Indian languages, using a combination of tapping and gestures.

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