The COVID pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on the travel industry. As countries around the world lift travel restrictions and the demand for international travel steadily increases, there are clear indications that the industry is recovering to pre-pandemic levels of international travel.
According to the UN World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) forward-looking scenarios for 2023, international tourist arrivals are projected to reach between 80% to 95% of pre-pandemic levels this year. This estimate is dependent on various factors, such as the extent of the economic slowdown, the ongoing recovery of travel in Asia and the Pacific, and the evolution of the Russian offensive in Ukraine.
Furthermore, the Travel & Tourism market is expected to generate revenue of €767.32bn by 2023, with an annual growth rate of 4.41%. Despite concerns over geopolitical instability, terrorism, and cybercrime which pose threats to personal identity, people are increasingly willing to travel with the expectation of seamless airport experiences.This includes faster, safer, and more secure interactions with airline personnel and immigration officers.
Passports are a standardised form of international identification that are highly important documents for individuals.The technology embedded within them can help facilitate seamless travel experiences for travelers. Advanced passport technology can also enable authorities to manage immigration processes more efficiently, leading to a reduction in operation costs.
In addition to these benefits, governments are strategically seeking to leverage new passport technologies to enhance their identity management and verification operations. The goal is not only to ensure secure and efficient border management but also to securely manage citizen data. Companies such as Semlex are working closely with governments to help achieve these objectives through the development and implementation of advanced identity solutions.
The gradual shift towards e-passports has been made possible by the concerted efforts of different manufacturers, including Semlex, who have made a significant contribution to implementing advanced passport technology. With 164 out of 195 countries currently issuing e-passports It is expected that the remaining countries will follow suit and adopt e-passports soon, thereby achieving full global adoption.
Albert Karaziwan, the founder of Semlex, gives us insight into passports, identity ecosystems and the responsibility of solution providers to international security, and in the development of identity technologies for the generations to come.
As an e-passport provider, what are the fundamental solutions that Semlex delivers to its partners in its products and services?
At Semlex, our primary objective is to build and deliver identity ecosystems that are secure, advanced and that meet international compliance standards. When we mention compliancy, we refer to The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a specialised agency of the United Nations responsible for international aviation standards, which elaborates on the concept of “evidence of identity,” encompassing legal, physical, and social aspects of an individual’s footprint.
We understand that building a secure and successful identity ecosystem is a complex project that requires trust. A task such as this requires a full assessment into completely understanding a prospective country’s state of affairs, including their identity ecosystem before developing for them a system with validated and authorised forms of identification that meets international standards. We consider it our obligation to prioritise national and global security by ensuring that every country reaches a level of invulnerability that can deter the most sophisticated cyber-attacks. We strive to empower our partners to reach a new level of identity management and take on the challenges of the modern world with confidence.
In our digital age, a person’s existence can only be verified through authorised documents registered in citizenship databases. These records represent the sole authenticated proof of a person’s identity to governments and institutions, making it imperative to safeguard their security and integrity against any unauthorised access or breaches. A nation’s ability to prevent individuals that are a threat to national and global security from traveling illicitly under false identities extends beyond the passport office, and to the application, verification, and authentication processes for its breeder documents. These documents serve as the initial link in a chain of trust that culminates with the authentication of an e-passport by the Country Signing Certificate Authority (CSCA).
Our fundamental responsibility is to provide this security, at the highest level, to every country where we provide our services.
How are passport solutions delivered within this identity ecosystem?
Passport solutions can be delivered in two versions which are machine readable (MRP) or with an electronic chip (e-Passport).
Machine-Readable Passport (MRP) Holder’s details are displayed both on the bio-data page and encoded in an optical character recognition format known as a machine-readable zone (MRZ). ICAO guidelines state that all countries should be MRP compliant as a minimum standard, ensuring global document interoperability.
Biometric passports are superior and the way it works is the e-Passport encrypted biographical and biometric data is also stored securely on a chip, embedded somewhere in the document itself. An e-passport enables additional levels of data security and verification by giving increased certainty about the bearer’s identity and helping to combat ID theft and the creation of fraudulent documents.
In addition, e-passports facilitate a more efficient border-crossing process by using cryptographic data protection to safeguard data integrity and confidentiality. This is stated as “recommended practice” by ICAO, over 130 countries have already transitioned to an e-passport solution. We most often advise our partners to select our e-passport solution.
What is Semlex’s approach to creating a secure passport solution compared to what’s available in the market?
Semlex passport solutions can integrate with existing infrastructures in any condition, even in cases where a complete system overhaul is recommended. Our aim is to mitigate potential risks or threats by delivering a bulletproof solution for national security.
We are committed to deliver sophisticated passport solutions with multiple layers of security that can effectively thwart any potential threats of counterfeiting. Our passport solutions involve six equally important facets which include book/token, enrollment & verification, issuance, personalisation, software and data management, project maintenance and services. On the ground, we provide access to a team of specialists who work closely with officials throughout the entire process. The process is as follows:.
Enrollment and verification
Collecting biometric requirements such as ICAO-compliant biometric data capture of personal details, facial image, fingerprint, signature (attributes unique to an individual) and biographic data capture, including name, date of birth, place of birth, sex, parents’ names and the validation of applicant’s eligibility and customer defined business rules to determine entitlement. Formalising an application and issuance strategy including implementing a production approach to meet production needs while addressing.quality control and data assurances.
Conducting a threat analysis of the current ecosystem and how to strengthen it followed by offering either an MRP or e-Passport solution with passport features including polycarbonate options. In-addition, proposing options for the passport Biodata page design and offering stock management solutions.
Implementing personalisation technologies for an enhanced document which includes Biodata page personalization, options such as laser and/or inkjet printing including entry-signing functionality and developing a central/regional production strategy.
Creating the system for final authorisation to issue documents including enveloping and sorting, regional despatch and receipt systems to ensure safe delivery.
Software and data management
Selecting a hosting and network solution that best suits the identity ecosystem. Emphasising security, infrastructure protocols and facilitating data migration and cleansing, third-party integration, and PKI and PKD management.
Service and project management
On-site and remote knowledge transfer to guarantee a self-sufficient program. Structuring a preventative maintenance program, which includes technical upkeep that ensures productivity by mitigating the disruption of services.
The passport book itself represents a nation on an international level. How does the Semlex design team work with their clients to deliver a well designed passport?
Our company has a rich history in art and design and our designers are highly skilled and versatile professionals who work closely with our partners to deliver designs that blend aesthetics and functionality. The passport design has to be iconic and deliver a true representation of the nation.
Semlex passports have several features and techniques that include UV, iridescent, litho, intaglio latent images microtext, see-through features, rainbows, guilloches, medallion fine-line workings, user-definable screen and metameric inks, and duplex and triplex patterns.
The passports can be constructed using a variety of substrates including cylinder mould made paper, polycarbonate pages and polymer options. We use strong design themes that take each nation’s culture into consideration.
We go to the extent of having hidden security features such as deliberate errors, specialist stitching and shaped laser perforations. Advanced personalisation features use the holder’s personal details and apply encryption techniques, specialist codes and variable print features to ensure each document is totally unique.
The bio-data page is the most important in a passport, so it is protected by additional security features. The use of a polycarbonate bio-data page solution or paper page with a thin film laminate patch safeguards the holder’s personal details.
How do you effectively and securely manage citizens’ identities in your passport solutions?
At Semlex, our passport solutions include a series of highly complex workstreams to ensure the trusted validation of breeder documents and the security of personal data.
We have developed a next-generation identity management solution that provides the functionality required to support passport, e-Government and e-Citizen applications. Our Semlex family of chip operating systems fulfills ICAO e-Passports, national eIDs, resident permits, digital signature and multi-application cards requirements.
We offer a web-based software solution for the secure management, personalisation and storage of citizen identity data, that enables secure passport solutions by allowing governments to record, validate, retrieve, update, certify and issue documents to citizens
What are the enrollment and verification solutions that you offer including different configurations that you offer?
Semlex enrollment solutions work online or offline, in mobile, regional or centralised configurations or any combination of the above. The requirements for verification are inevitably unique for each issuing authority. Our solutions are designed to be flexible, accommodating the range of workflows and interactions including biometric checks and third-party interfacing.
We have capabilities of ICAO-compliant biometric data capture of personal details, facial image, fingerprint, signature (attributes unique to an individual) and biographic data capture, including name, date of birth, place of birth, sex, parents’ names, and the validation of applicant’s eligibility and customer defined business rules to determine entitlement.
Our solutions also offer an enrollment application module which captures, records and stores citizens’ biographic and biometric enrollment details and image data. In addition, we have a verification system for authentication of identity and validation of entitlement (1-to-1 matching authentication, and 1-to-many matching identification).
As a system integrator, what personalisation and issuance technologies do you deliver?
The solutions available can be automated or manual which also includes chip cryptography, inkjet or laser visible personalisation, and various quality guarantees. We provide ICAO-compliant personalisation, encoding and Public Key Infrastructure (PKI). Our verified applicant data is sent to hardware equipment which personalises blank identity documents including MRPs and e-Passports.
Essentially, our personalisation solutions which include paper, laminate and polycarbonate, as well as chip encoding and access control can be scaled to each country’s requirements.
Issuance, the final step in the process, can be customised to be simple such as handover to the applicant, which can include a biometric check, at a specific facility to full scale sorting and enveloping, augmented by the use of GPS tracking to the final destination.
We have capabilities to issue centralised and decentralised documents with biometric authentication in person and by mail. We complete the application process by handing over the finalised identity document to the applicant by a collection process that involves a centralised site or multiple distribution sites that also offer a number of delivery options.
Albert Karaziwan, as the founder of a multinational company, how does Semlex approach corporate culture?
At Semlex, we take an ecosystem approach to management. We put an emphasis on effective leadership and we share the highs and the lows collectively. We are team oriented and we are also a family. We work together and support each other to achieve success in our projects. We are all about creating a workplace culture that is built on trust, confidence, and helping employees recognise their unique roles within the company. We place an importance on striving for excellence and believe that the focus should always be on progressing forward with win-win outcomes.
Although it’s tempting to view teams as families, the reality is that the two are fundamentally different. Today, employees don’t expect to be treated as family or be micromanaged by a parental leader but they appreciate the loyalty and support of that kind of relationship. In order to have a productive workforce, leadership must change its way of thinking by shifting from a one-dimensional management paradigm to one that fuses several philosophies and ideas and promotes a system of trust and shared values.