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Home Office planning to brick version 1 ID cards in 2012?

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The current generation of UK ID card is, apparently, the wrong kind of ID card, and is likely to be upgraded to incorporate new features by 2012.

These are likely to include chip and pin for online transactions and ID verification, both of which have been spoken of in the past by ID minister Meg Hillier. The upgrade, however, will mean that all of the ID cards issued prior to 2012 will have to be replaced.

Hillier has recently been calling for businesses to come up with applications and ideas for using ID cards, and talking about adding new functionality as the technology evolves. A lack of online functionality has however been an obvious weakness of the ID scheme from the outset, so this is more a case of the Home Office belatedly recognising this than of technological evolution.

But the mooted 2012 upgrade presents the Home Office with some problems. ID cards are valid for ten years, and were originally costed - highly optimistically - to have a ten year lifespan. The cost of replacing the 10,000 that the Home Office says will shortly be in circulation won't be that great, but obviously the more popular the Home Office makes ID cards, the more expensive it's going to be to recall them.

And if some of Hillier's wackier ideas (she compares them to the iPhone, and suggests the chip could be integrated into handsets) get implemented, the Identity & Passport Service could find itself issuing new iD (thanks, Sir Bonar) every couple of years.

Making ID cards as popular as iPhones and having the fan base clamouring for an upgrade every two years is unlikely to be the plan, though. According to Home Secretary Alan Johnson, it's planned that 17 million ID cards will be in circulation by 2017, and previous IPS roadmaps have spoken of enrolling people in high volumes from 2011/2012.

So provided the upgrade goes ahead, it's quite possible that IPS won't try to ship too many for the next two years, and then go high volume with New Improved iD™ card from 2012. It's also possible that this has been the plan for some time, and that the only point of shipping version one was to get a few of them in people's hands prior to the general election. ®

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