First Coffee for November 3, 2005

David Sims : First Coffee
David Sims
| CRM, ERP, Contact Center, Turkish Coffee and Astroichthiology:

First Coffee for November 3, 2005

By David Sims

The news as of the first coffee this morning, and the music is Ramsay Midwood’s Shootout at the OK Chinese Restaurant, a great rootsy-bluesy album released in 2002, with the terrific song “Monster Truck,” but as far as First CoffeeSM knows it’s the only thing this guy ever did:

Well, it’s finally happening. Setec, a Gemplus company and Finland-based developer and manufacturer of visual and electronic card products, is announcing it has begun the mass delivery of the new biometric passports and national identity cards with a function for electronic services for Sweden.

(Cue minor-key theme music, up and under.)

In October 2005, Sweden began to deploy nationwide passports embedded with a micro-chip, compliant with the international requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organization, and the European Union. As such, the new Swedish passports, and the EID cards, meet the world’s most demanding security requirements.

Alongside the actual passport, Setec is also providing a comprehensive information processing system for the personalization of the biometric passports and EID cards and for the security calculation services.

Maybe First CoffeeSM’s just seen too many bad movies or read too many futuristic novels, but this seems like yet another bump down the slide to life as a Stephen King novel.

Biometric passports. What’s next, a requirement that passports actually be chips implanted in people? Don’t laugh, the technology’s there and it’s actually happened. They’re implanting chips in dogs, and First CoffeeSM has heard of people having chips implanted.

Have you seen this movie before? A new technology is developed. Provides some convenience, usually to police and corporations, but there’s great potential for abuse and harm. Concerns pooh-poohed amidst much trumpeting of the “fail-safe safeguards” in place to avoid any great harm, which depend 99.3% on the basic goodness and incorruptibility of human nature, something First CoffeeSM has exactly 0.7% faith in the goodness and incorruptibility of.

Think of the misuse someone could make of any biometric technology, count on seeing reported incidents of that and assume the majority of them are going unreported. First CoffeeSM’s willing to allow some sand in the gears, some human slippage here and there, some terrorists and Mossad agents using fake passports to chase each other around the world to maintain the overall humanity of societal existence.

This agreement also includes the delivery of the national Swedish EID cards. These cards contain two microchips, one for traveling purposes within Schengen countries similar to the biometric passport, and the other for identification, for example when logging onto networks to access various electronic services.

The value of the agreement is in excess of 100 million euros.

The new passports and the EID cards will initially store in the micro-chips the personal data of each holder along side their digitally formatted facial image. Fingerprints may be included in a second phase.

“Sweden is a leading player when it comes to biometric identification, both in Europe and on the international scene. The Swedish passport and EID cards are based on remarkably safe and sophisticated smart card products that make them hard to forge,” said Pekka Eloholma, President and CEO, Setec.

Hard but certainly not impossible, not to an organization with the will and means to do so, which includes just about any national intelligence agency, international crime or terrorist outfit, who do the vast majority of passport forging today. In other words, it’ll make passports more troublesome and expensive for ordinary people – you know for a fact they’ll be more expensive and more of a pain in the butt to get than passports now – and will provide essentially no significant reduction in illegal usage.

“The evolution of the Swedish passports has actually been bigger than just introducing a new biometric passport for our citizens. At the same time we have created a totally new and a very demanding information processing system together with Setec,” stated Lars Karlsand, Principal Administrative Officer at the Swedish National Police Board.

An eminently hackable one, too, First CoffeeSM knows. It’s not that someone has to figure out how to forge biometric passports, which is certainly doable – there was a reason pirate captains used to shoot the guys who drew the maps to where they’d buried their treasure, but that’s probably not a workable solution to safeguarding the technology used in making biometric passports from being hired out to the highest bidder – all someone has to figure out is how to access the database. Which isn’t all that hard for an organization with the motivation, time, expertise and money to do so, all of which abound in the world today.

Setec has begun to manufacture Norway’s biometric passports and has been chosen to deliver also their technology to several other countries including Denmark. Currently, Setec manufactures and personalizes conventional, i.e. visual passports for Denmark and Finland.

Okay, so for now it’s a Scandinavian thing. That’s always been a highly overregulated culture, but law enforcement around the world is the same everywhere: They always consider anything that makes their jobs easier to be good for society at large, no matter what the knock-on effects are, and think anybody who opposes things that law enforcement would like are anti-cop, and most probably criminals themselves, or at least sympathetic to criminals.

Or maybe First CoffeeSM, essentially a Luddite who thinks the ideal existence is a wi-fi enabled English country cottage with a milkman delivering in the morning and a village main street a quarter mile walk away for the greengrocer, ironmonger and butcher shops, is just paranoid. That’s always a distinct possibility. But biometrics, for all their benign uses and undoubted benefits to society, do hold the entrée to a lot of the lurid scenarios those dime novels talked about. Ignore the insight into human nature dime novelists had at your peril.

Microsoft has announced an agreement to acquire AG, a software company based in Zurich that develops communications applications based on voice over Internet protocol technology.

Microsoft plans to apply’s technology, people and intellectual property to accelerate the delivery of its unified communications vision, bringing together various modes of communication such as e-mail, instant messaging, short message service, voice/telephony and audio, video and Web conferencing.

A new study from Frost & Sullivan reveals that enterprise telephony players in the Asia Pacific region need to convince end users about the superiority of Internet Protocol technology over the conventional time division multiplexing.

The emphasis, the study finds, needs to be on the advantages in terms of cost savings, networking and user experience.

The analysis from Frost & Sullivan, “Asia Pacific Enterprise Telephony Market – Second Quarter 2005 Tracker,” says that revenues in this market totaled $612 million in Q2 of 2005, of which IP telephony accounts for $279.8 million.

“The consumers’ approach towards IP telephony solutions is graduating from a cost-driven one to a decision that is based more on user experience,” says Frost & Sullivan industry analyst May-Ann Wong.

Consumers expect a greater number of converged personalized services that facilitate better communications by means of the novel IP phone-based productivity applications. As such, successful vendors use global and regional partnerships with application developers to add value to their IP telephony offerings, Wong finds.

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