E-purse and e-gate facility at airport soon

R.A. Hettinga rah at shipwright.com
Sun Jan 9 18:40:53 PST 2005


Times of Oman - Local News

(Monday, January 10, 2005)

E-purse and e-gate facility at airport soon


By Adarsh Madhavan

MUSCAT - Oman will be introducing a host of applications on the smart card,
or the national identity card, soon. A top application, which will be
introduced this year, will enable the national ID card users to utilise the
e-gate (*) (electronic gates) 'fast track' facility at the Seeb
International Airport. But even when this facility is launched, it will be
only for Omanis and expatriate (nationals and residents) businessmen/women
as an initial arrangement.

 This was unveiled by Colonel (Dr) Sulaiman bin Mohammed Al Harthy,
director-general of civil status at the Royal Oman Police (ROP), yesterday.

Colonel Sulaiman Al Harthy told newsmen on the sidelines of a seminar,
conducted by the Directorate-General of Civil Status and the Bahwan IT, the
information technology division of the Suhail Bahwan Group, and Gemplus,
their technology partners, which was held at Grand Hyatt Muscat yesterday
that the e-gate facility will be only for the private sector
businessmen/women. It will be available only to them when it is introduced.

Colonel Al Harthy also added that they "would rather wait and evaluate the
situation for a while (before implementing it for others). At the moment,
it will be only for the businessmen/women in the private sector who are
holding the resident cards".

Another top facility, which is on the cards and a major priority for the
Sultanate, is the e-purse, Colonel Al Harthy added. The e-purse (or the
electronic purse) would be like a debit card, which has currency or cash
loaded on to the card as an electronic value.

 It can be used at kiosks, gas stations, vending machines etc and even over
the Internet.

"For the customer, it offers a very high level of security (unlike the
credit card numbers which we give over the Net, here digital keys are
exchanged and encryption levels and standards followed are to the highest,
so that the customer can rest assured with a high level of security),"
Ramakrishna Sathyagopal, principal consultant of Data Capture Solutions,
Bahwan IT (formerly SSB Computer Division), a division of Bahwan Trading
Co. LLC, explained, adding that it also offers a great deal of convenience
to the user who would not have to carry any cash with him/her.

Meanwhile, Oman is the first country in the AGCC and the entire Middle East
to issue smart cards as a national ID card.

 The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar have now followed suit.

Colonel Al Harthy was on the upbeat when queried on their expectations
after the launch of this card. "It is really up to our expectations and the
response of the pubic was great. We really appreciate that," he said.

Although the message about the new cards were loud and clear, they would
try to emphasise or renew the message whenever they would be introducing
new applications, he added.

Colonel Al Harthy, was the first speaker at the seminar highlighted details
of the card.

 He was followed by Hisham Surakhi, business development manager, Gemplus,
Middle East and Emmanuel Quedreux, project manager, Gemplus, France. Also
present was M. K. Janaki Raman, general manager of Bahwan IT and Pierre
Servetazz, director of Gemplus, Middle East.

The audience comprised of government officials, businessmen, those in the
IT segment, and other dignitaries.

Also present were Amal Bahwan, director of Bahwan IT; Aqeed Abdullah bin
Jameel bin Saif Al Quraini, head of ITS at the Ministry of Defence.

The civil status project in Oman is an execution of the Royal Decree No.
(66/99), which ordained that the Civil Status Law be issued, and whose
article (2) decreed that a new directorate be established and added to the
existing group of general directorates of the ROP to execute the Civil
Status Law.

So far, a total 200,000 cards have been issued. Of this, a total of 150,000
cards have been issued to Omanis and the remaining 50,000, expatriates.

 According to the plan, as specified by Colonel Al Harthy, all expatriates
(starting from children who have reached 15) would be issued their cards by
the end of 2006.

By the end of 2007, beginning of 2008, all Omanis would be holding their cards.

The Directorate General of Civil Status, ROP is the owner of this card.
Their long-term vision is to promote this card as the ubiquitous form of
mass media, which can be used for identification and authentication,
officials from Bahwan IT said.

Information such as the civil number of the bearer, a record of marriage,
birth and other personal details are already loaded into the card, enabling
automated electronic reading of the card possible.

Being a smart card, applications on this can be anything from a driver's
licence or a health card to digital signatures to a bank card, the
officials said.

The card includes the carrier's demographic data along with a digital
photograph and an electronic fingerprint template making identification,
verification and authentication possible by manual and machine readable

A person can thus prove who he claims to be at multiple locations, with a
single card.

With its PKI (public key infrastructure) application readiness,
applications like utility/bill payments are envisaged, making e-commerce a
reality in the near future.

The card itself is a leveller as everyone above the age of 15 would possess
one and the DGCS has provided ample user space on the card for it to
accommodate many different programs, so multiple applications can easily be
added on.

All of this will enable bearers of the card better service by simplifying
procedures, saving time and effort, thereby commanding wider user

The DGCS has recognised and acknowledged Bahwan ITs capabilities to take
this forward by giving permission to work along with them and Gemplus,
Bahwan IT officials said.

"We, at the Bahwan IT, the systems integrator for the card applications,
with our expertise in this technology, our skills with software development
and project management aim to make the Sultanate a closer place, redefining
convergence in its true sense by facilitating multiple applications on the
card," the officials said.

"It is a privilege for Bahwan IT to be working along with the DGCS, ROP on
the national ID cards and their applications and with Gemplus being the
global leader in Smart Card technology, Bahwan IT honours their invaluable
support," they added.

New cards with renewed visas

MUSCAT - The new national identity cards will be issued to resident
expatriates when their visa expires and not when their labour card expires,
Colonel (Dr) Sulaiman bin Mohammed Al Harthy, director-general of civil
status, ROP, clarified to a query yesterday.

"The resident expatriate needs to get his/her national ID card only when
their visa expires," Colonel Harthy said.

"For those expatriates (in the private sector) who have a visa, which is
valid for more than a year, would need to renew their labour card for a
year and then wait until the visa expires and then get the new national ID
card," he explained.

 "But, they have to be careful, for sometimes, there can be an overlap
between the visa and the labour card, so if they (the expatriates) exceed
the allowed time for the Ministry of Manpower, they would have to pay a

Family members and children (above 15) should also apply for their national
ID card when their visa expires. The labour card becomes obsolete once this
national ID card is issued."

Colonel Al Harthy noted that the visa would be "embedded in the national ID
card. Therefore, an ID card holder (expatriate) will have two visas. One,
which will be the stamp in the passport and the other on the ID card

To a query, Colonel Harthy said: "Only the ROP will be having access to the
information on the ID card.

"But, then if you go to a bank and want to open an account, then they would
be having the facility to access the information. However, there will be
information, which is public, and which they can access and the other
private/confidential information, others will not be able to access."

 Colonel Al Harthy also noted that offences would not be registered on the
ID card.

Boon for businessmen

By A Staff Reporter

MUSCAT -The fast-track e-gate facility (*) at the airport will prove to be
quite a boon for the private sector businessmen and women, who are
constantly on the move.

"This will enable the user to avoid long queues, which may prove to be time
consuming," Ramakrishna Sathyagopal, principal consultant of Data Capture
Solutions, Bahwan IT (formerly SSB Computer Division), a division of Bahwan
Trading Co. LLC, told the Times of Oman yesterday.

 "The smart card will have a biometric template loaded on it. And when the
passenger arrives at the airport, he/she will be having the card and will
also be directly present there.

 "So, it enables the user to immediately prove their status. As reports
note, it would provide a 'one-to-one' match or authentication. And so when
the smart card is put into the e-gate facility it authenticates the
person's fingerprint (from the fingerprint scanner) with the fingerprint
present on the card.

 "Basically, this would mean that users can avoid queuing up and the
checking process would be done very quickly.

Because it checks both the fingerprint as well as the card, it will prove
to be an absolutely foolproof method," Ramakrishna said.

R. A. Hettinga <mailto: rah at ibuc.com>
The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation <http://www.ibuc.com/>
44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
"... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
[predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'

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