Weak Growth Ahead for ePassports

Adoption of electronic passports, which utilize microcontroller chips, trails growth of other forms of government-issued electronic identification, new study shows.

Worldwide adoption of electronic passports is set for weak growth, according to a new study from industry researcher IHS Technology. Despite the documents’ ability to improve security and help prevent terrorism by making it more difficult to forge travel documents, government legislation, political opposition and other issues remain barriers to widespread adoption, researchers say.

IHS says it expects global shipments of ePassports will rise to 175 million units in 2019, up from 113 million in 2013. This represents a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.6 percent during the six-year period.  Although that may appear to be strong, IHS says it amounts to the slowest growth for any segment of the worldwide government electronic identification (ID) market.

“In comparison, shipments of electronic identification for use as drivers’ licenses, healthcare cards, and national ID credentials all are expected to enjoy double-digit CAGRs from 2013 through 2019,” the researcher said in a statement announcing the new report. “Shipments of ePassports will rise at only half the rate of the fastest-growing form of electronic government identification: national IDs.”

Electronic passports supplement traditional paper passports, adding a microcontroller chip that contains biometric information used to authenticate a traveler’s identity. The chips use the same technology employed in contactless smart cards, allowing wireless data transfer of ID information. The devices store facial, fingerprint, and iris recognition data.

Some countries are embracing the technology despite the slow growth, however. In Australia, for instance, IHS predicts that the majority of passports will include an embedded microcontroller chip by the end of 2015. Austria, Denmark, Italy, Malaysia, the Philippines and Hong Kong are also mature ePassport markets, IHS reports, adding that the Asia-Pacific region accounted for the largest shipments of ePassports in 2013, at 40% of the global market.

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