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07 June 2010  
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Smart card use in transportation

Smart card-based DLs and RCs

Smart card-based driving licenses and registration certificates are being issued at all zonal transport authorities in Delhi. By Manjari Juneja

The Government of India (GoI) has issued guidelines for the introduction of smart card-based Driving Licenses (DL) and e-governance facilities in various functions of the transport departments in all states of India. Gujarat was the first state in India to implement a smart card-based driver’s license. The smart card DL contains an embedded chip that stores the cardholder’s fingerprint, digital signature and personal information.

Government National Capital Territory of Delhi (NCT) decided to provide high quality services for issuing smart card-based DLs in all Zonal Transport Authorities (ZTA) in Delhi. The Government of NCT Delhi said that this would help eliminate malpractices and ensure a robust, efficient and reliable system. In Delhi, approximately 500,000 licenses are issued every year.

The smart card-based DL has a computerized photograph, fingerprint impression, signature of the applicant and other data making it impossible to issue a driving license to a person without that person turning up at the ZTA. The system is designed in such a manner that the fingerprint for one-to-one matching and other details of the license holder are used as key fields for verifying the particulars of the license holder. This prevents the issue of duplicate and fraudulent DLs.

Smart card issuance stations allow the entire process to be completed in one trip. The issuance stations consist of smart card personalization equipment (including a PC, smart card printer, video camera, fingerprint capture device and a signature tablet), as well as customized software.

R.K. Verma, Transport Commissioner, Delhi, said, “The idea of a smart card-based DL was to e-enable the entire process of issuing DLs. Keeping the data history regarding issuance, for example, if any penalty has been imposed on the driver, can be written and rewritten easily with smart cards. We do not have to refer to the main database every time. The basic data is written on the chip. Details regarding any challan, endorsement or other information like who is the person, his fingerprints and his photograph etc. can be easily found in a digital format—so it becomes much easier to compare. Basically, it serves a dual purpose. It is easier to handle data and helps in better regulation. The DL would be delivered through speed post at the address of the applicant to ensure transparency and eliminate malpractices and touts.”

For applying for a smart card-based DL, the applicant has to submit the fees for which he receives a receipt. The officer in charge will capture the applicant’s personal details such as name, age, address, fingerprint, signature and his or her photograph. Then the inspector or MLO approves the DL and transfer of the data on to a smart card chip.

Smart Card DLs are produced under high security standards that help prevent identity fraud. The information on the chip is stored safely in a tamperproof manner. When smart cards are presented for identification purposes, the individual’s fingerprint is compared against the fingerprint in the card on a one-to-one basis improving the identification process.

Only an authorized person in the transport department with an assigned login and password will be able to access this data and make additions to the same.

Smart card-based RC book

The transport department is also issuing vehicle registered certificate (RC) on a smart card. In addition to the 4 KB chip, there is also optical memory with a capacity of 64 MB. This memory will contain all the scanned documents of the registration file, thereby dispensing with the manual records maintained for every vehicle that comes under the transport department’s jurisdiction. The registration file is returned to the owner of the vehicle.

Along with the registration record, the record of payment of road tax, traffic offenses, permit details & fees, biometrics of security functions like fingerprints, photographs of the registered owner, digital signatures etc. are stored in optical memory with WORM (Write Once Read Many) capability, which leaves no possibility of manipulation of the data by RTOs or any other person. Data can only be added but cannot be deleted.

In Delhi, it is also possible to get a driving license issued from any of the 13 RTOs, irrespective of where the person stays in the capital. To bring down levels of corruption, all RTOs and the transport department unit at Burari are being interlinked and all records transferred to a central server.

Interlinked RTOs would free the applicants from the current restriction of having to go to only the transport office which serves their area of residence. Though license-seekers are free to apply at any RTO, they will need to complete all formalities such as the driving test for learners’ license, payment of fees, final road test for permanent license and the printing of the smart card at the same RTO. Details of new licenses are uploaded into the centralized database.

The department has also created a centralized pool of information so that all records of present license holders can be accessed by officials from any RTO. To get the new facility rolling, the transport department is now in the final stages of linking the existing databases of all the 13 RTOs and the Burari unit.

Uniform smart driving license cards will soon come in a uniform format across the country. The National Informatics Centre (NIC) is working on developing this card and all states have been directed to implement it in a time-bound program.

The states have also agreed to the concept of issuing a single national permit for commercial vehicles and a ministerial group has been set-up for apportioning the fees among the states.

For ensuring seamless travel, the states have agreed to do away with the present system of barriers and set-up an integrated check post which will take care of all kinds of taxes to be levied only at the entry point of the concerned state.

Inside a smart card-based DL
  • 256 bytes to 4 KB RAM
  • 8 KB to 32 KB ROM
  • 1 KB to 32 KB EEPROM
  • Crypto-coprocessors (implementing 3DES, RSA etc.,
    in hardware) are optional
  • 8-bit to 16-bit CPU. 8051 based designs are common
  • Microprocessor: IC Chip (Integrated Circuit Gold Plated embedded in plastic Card), 4 KB RAM
  • Compliant of: ISO/IEC 7816-1,2,3,6
  • Transport Protocol: SCOSTA V 1.2b (SCOSTA - Smart card Operating System for Transport Application, the software prepared by NIC & Ministry of Road Transport and Highways)
  • EEPROM (Electrically Erasable Programmable Read Only Memory): T=O, T=l
  • Glossy, PVC or ABS Plastic with 3,00,000 write cycle

SCOSTA is a key software in RTOs

There have been previous attempts to introduce smart card-based DLs by a few RTOs. They faced problems in its enforcement, as different districts could not equip their enforcement team with smart card readers and system applications were also found to be different in other states. To address this, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, in consultation with the National Informatics Centre (NIC), State/UT Governments and smart card industry, developed standardized software called Smart Card Operating System for Transport Application (SCOSTA).

This software has been incorporated in Central Motor Vehicle Rules. The software has been made available to states and UTs free of cost. It covers both the back-end automation of RTOs and front-end computerization to enable issue of smart card-based DL and registration certificates for transport vehicles.

Under an MOU, NIC has been remitted to oversee smooth implementation. The symmetric key infrastructure for both smart card-based DLs and RCs has been established at the central level. Many states are getting their registration records converted into SCOSTA format that is called SCOSTA VAHAN. The same software will uniformly be made available throughout India in a single format.

Currently, states such as Gujarat, Delhi, Chandigarh and Karnataka have started to provide smart card DLs and RCs.

The other part of SCOSTA for driving licenses is called SARATHI. This system will have the DL record on common software to be used by RTOs in different states. This will also help in making a national record for Indian drivers. The RTOs is not required to keep voluminous records of driver renewals, endorsement, suspension or offenses. This will also help to dispose of accident insurance cases. The traffic police can enter the offense details in smart cards on the road itself. The police can also know whether the driver is a regular offender or not.

Project status

The project was initiated in mid 2009 and has been since been successfully implemented in all Zonal Transport Authorities in Delhi. Since then over five lakh smart card-based DLs have been issued. This new system has resulted in the computerization of the complete DL issue process, thereby minimizing human interference, ensured transparent processes, reduced the waiting time for DLs and RCs and sped up the delivery process. The response of applicants to these high quality driving licenses has been positive.

Verma said, “The objective of introducing smart card-based DLs and RCs was to change the entire system from manual to electronic format, ensuring paperless administration. Biometric authentication reduces the possibility of multiple cards or duplicity and it is tamperproof. The problem of proof of residence can be solved, as the card will need to be personalized by the cardholder and will be delivered at his or her residence—which, in a way, helps in address verification. All the databases and records are maintained through the card. Updating of records is also done through the card which leads to transparent administration.”

The last phase of integration is on and the smart card readers are being procured. “We will soon be introducing 30 enforcement vehicles and tying up with the police by providing them with the readers to decode data. We also planning to share our database with other services that we provide and, in another year, we are hopeful that whole thing would have been stabilized,” said Verma.

Benefits derived

The transport department took a decision to dispatch smart card-based DLs through speed post instead of delivering them manually across the counter. Security concerns called for physical verification of the applicant’s address.

This process is convenient for the applicants. They don’t have to wait as DLs are delivered at home. It also does away with the nuisance of touts and other middlemen who seek tips. Applicants do not need to revisit transport department to collect their DL or RCs.

“The number of touts has decreased drastically with our drive to send DL through speed post. Around two percent of the DLs come back on the basis that this person does not live here and we are flagging such people in our database with their biometrics. We are now in a better position to manage the database, especially the regulation part. Duplicate licenses would be difficult to issue and will not fall into the wrong hands,” said Verma

The NCT government has entered into a contract for a period of ten years with the Delhi Multi-Modal Transit System (DIMTS) for the smart card-based DLs. DIMTS is responsibility for designing, developing, installing, operating, maintaining and managing the DL issue system in Delhi.

DIMTS took the responsibility of project conceptualization and structuring, software development, technical specification, integration with the VAHAN database, procurement of services, project commissioning and execution.

Talking of what’s on the anvil, Verma said, “We want to link smart card-based DLs with other services that we offer in other departments. For example, if a licensee owns a vehicle we can link it to his RC. We want to combine all these things and create a single customer profile.”



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