Contactless ID-cards to arrive in near future

Aivar Pau
, ajakirjanik
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Photo: Mihkel Maripuu / Postimees

The state will start issuing residents new ID-cards that sport a new design and security elements and come with contactless technology from the start of next year at the latest.

Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) Chief Expert Eliisa Sau said it has taken 18 months to prepare the new digital documents. Enterprise Estonia (EAS) was consulted for the new cards’ design the flipside of which portrays a glacial boulder and the Viru bog.

“The biggest change is how the card looks, that the ID-card will now have a color photo, just like passports. It also serves as a security element,” Sau said. The card will also have a transparent window and an invisible secondary photograph that will only appear when viewed from a certain angle. The card will have a code using which the police can consult a database to see whether it is actually in use.

Follow-up service will also be offered abroad, and it will not be necessary to visit PPA service bureaus to update certificates. This means that certificates can be suspended, reactivated and revoked and PIN envelopes replaced in 40 Estonian embassies all over the world.

Current ID-cards will remain in use until they expire. All ID-cards sporting the old design and features that have not been picked up from PPA bureaus will be kept for six months before being destroyed.

Head of the eID department of the State Information System’s Authority (RIA) Margus Arm said that the cards have a new chip that allows contactless use in the future, once service providers start offering corresponding solutions – validating public transport trips for example. The new chip will retain the traditional interface and can still be used in ID-card readers.

“The chip fits more information and is compatible with new applications, like electronic public transport tickets or other kinds of electronic certification. Giving and reading digital signatures will be possible using the traditional interface only. Use of the contactless interface needs to consider security and must be executed in a way to rule out the user’s data being read without their knowledge,” Arm explained.

The PPA will also replace the manufacturer of Estonian ID-cards next year. Gemalto AG, that has been making the cards for over 15 years, will be replaced by French manufacturer Idemia. Gemalto has contested the outcome of the tender in first instance and circuit courts.

In addition to the ID-card, the Estonian residence permit card, digital identity card and diplomatic identity card will also be given a new look. Issue of documents will begin on January 1, 2019 at the latest.

Companies and institutions that use the ID-card as a loyalty card should turn to RIA to get their test cards and determine how they need to change their services and applications. For example, whether the system can read and write the new digital signature format.