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The Home Office has indicated that it is likely to adopt a "contactless" form of smart card for the National Identity Card.

This follows the publication of the Smart Card Durability Survey on 27 April that collected views from smart card producers and organisations that use them on the technology options.

A Home Office spokesperson told Government Computing News that it would need a contactless feature - through which a reader could pick up the details of the card from a few metres away - to meet international travel requirements.

"It has been indicated that the identity card programme is intended to enable the cardholder to travel in Europe," the spokesperson said. "Thus, it will need to comply with International Civil Aviation Organisation requirements for travel documents.

"As a result, under new requirements for travel documents (both passports and identity cards), contactless functionality will need to be included to operate at borders.

"This functionality is being included in the current UK passport as well as in passports across the world."

Respondents to the survey indicated that, despite the recent emergence of the technology, it is feasible to expect contactless cards to have a 10 year lifespan. There are some issues around the way the antenna is inlaid into the card and the strength of its connection to the chip. Also, they are 15 per cent to 30 per cent more expensive than contact cards.

Some respondents said they did not have as much confidence in the main alternative, dual interface cards, which can work by contact or without contact with readers.

The other main option, hybrid cards, was considered too expensive and posed too high a risk of damage due to the inclusion of two chips.

Only 12 out of the 21 organisations responded to the survey, which forms part of the government's wider market research.

The Home Office is expected to start the IT procurement process for the scheme in "due course". Contracts are expected to be worth more than £6bn.

The scheme has been estimated to cost £584m a year to run, and puts the cost of an individual ID card at £30 and at £93 with a biometric passport. It was given royal assent in March.

Around 38m British citizens over the age of 16, and foreign nationals who have lived in the country for more than three months, will have their details recorded on a National Identity Register.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

Kablenet's GC weekly is a free email newsletter covering the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. To register click here.

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