HID Global deals in solutions that deliver secure identity. Owned by the Swedish company ASSA ABLOY, HID sells physical access control products, IT authentication solutions, and issuing smart cards that are deployed with national ID and e-passport programs, supply chain management, animal tagging, financial transactions, transport and various industrial and manufacturing solutions. HID also provides security solutions to the Delhi International airport and the Delhi metro.
Ranjit Nambiar, director of sales, HID Global, speaks to Dilin Anand of EFY about the future of secure identity solutions in India.
Q. Could you explain a bit about HID Global so that our readers can understand the company better?
A. HID Global has been playing in the RFID domain for about 20 years. It all started with the evolution of the RFID contact technology back in ’91. We deal with access control and secure identity solutions including secure card issuance, RFID Technology and eGovernment. We are a global player in citizen ID projects like e-Passports and electronics visas. In order to boost our products value, we have also acquired EasyLobby who dealt with Secure Visitor Management software. Moreover, we have also acquired ActivIdentity who provide Identity Assurance and strong authentication solutions.
Q. What are the different verticals that HID focuses on?
A. We have 2 broad business units, the Identity and Access Management (IAM) unit, and the Identity Technology (IDT) unit. We work on IDT here which consists of transponders, chips and antennas. The different verticals that IDT caters to are supply chains, retail markets, financial firms, and for animal ID.
Q. Could you elaborate on IAM?
A. IAM consists of Physical Access Control, Secure Issuance and IT authentication or Identity Assurance. We are the pioneers of Physical Access Control, which deals with the physical access of a person to a particular resource depending on authorisation. This is where you see card readers, and different RFID technology such as Low Frequency 125kHz and high-frequency 13.56MHz technologies.
Secure issuance deals with providing the flexibility to issue secure cards and credentials. This part of our business was boosted after our acquisition of Fargo. This has got more to do with visual security such as holographs and pictures. IT Authentication or Identity Assurance is what allows us to put in multiple applications on a single smart card. Some companies use smart cards, or USB tokens for secure access. By using IT Authentication as a key application, we have been able to provide Identity Assurance solutions in a single unit or form factor.
Q. What is your R&D centre working on now? Where is it located?
A. We are a product solution focused company wherein we have multiple R&D centres around the globe working on the same technology and product. Out primary R&D lab is in Denver, while we have more in Connecticut, and Germany – Germany deals mostly with IT Authentication. Manufacturing facilities are mostly taken care of with the help of ASSA ABLOY Group as we are a part of their brand. HID has a wholly owned plant in Malaysia. We also have third party plants in China and the Philippines.
Q. What are the activities of HID Global in India – I know there is no R&D but could you elaborate on sales, engineering, and other areas?
A. The India office is just a sales office. The functions present in the South Asia HQ are sales, customer service, marcom, operations and finance. Our Bengaluru office is one of the 3 production units in APAC (Asia Pacific) – the production unit takes care of configuration and customisation on the cards and readers.
Q. Do you handle everything in-house? If not, who are your major solution providers?
A. HID Global is not an integrator, we are a product solutions services organisation and as such we have partners who take care of integration. Some of our System integrator partners are Bosch and Schneider. In Secure Issuance, our integrators are those that deal with banks and similar institutions. In Identity Assurance, our integrator partners deal with the physical part and not the IT part of it. It all works on a channel centric model which changes with respect to the business at hand.
Q. Are there any new and exciting products in your pipeline?
A. Yes, from the tech perspective, our key initiative is on mobile access. Mobile penetration is very huge, and growing. This makes Near Field Communication (NFC) very big when looked at from the payment perspective. HID sees a great opportunity here. Conventionally, the RFID smart card has keys and formats. We can easily implement this onto an NFC-enabled phone, thus, giving it what we call as Mobile Access. We believe credentials will change its form with the new iCLASS SE (secure element) platform that is Secure Identity Object(SIO) enabled.
Q. Could you elaborate on SIO?
A. Conventionally, the RFID smart cards are secured merely using format and keys. This is not really secure as it can be replicated if the key and format is compromised. Thus, there occurred a weak point in the security offered by the card. We created the SIO to overcome this weakness. The SIO is an object that is stored onto the smart card as another layer of security, while the key and format are loaded onto the SIO. This approach is known as a layered security approach, and the ability to load the SIO onto a mobile device has enhanced it’s security.
Q. Could you elaborate on any new technology for security cards?
A. A new offering that has been catalysed by our acquisition of Fargo has to do with High Density printing. Usually, card printing is done by utilising Direct to Card (DTC) printers where printing is done directly on top of the card as the name suggests. The problems that arise with DTC is that print quality is compromised due to indentation, heating, or foreign particles on the card. Moreover, because the printing is directly on the card, the printer heads get damaged pretty fast.
The new technology that we now use is based on printing onto very thin films which are then transferred onto the card. This is done by High-Density Printing (HDP), and the HDP8500 printer that features this technology has issuance security that meets industry standards.
Q. What are the exciting tech trends for secure identity solutions in 2012?
A. The evolution of biometrics is a key trend that is shaping up. It has grown out from its previous avatar of physical access. Biometrics has matured and now you can see it in a wide variety of applications. Even RFID cards can be compromised, but the case is different for biometrics. One of the new changes is that biometrics and behavioural analysis are being integrated into fraud detection systems. What’s more is that these Fraud detection systems are starting to become cloud based which gives them enormous computing power and the ability to gradually improve itself without any actions by the client.
Q. What are the changes that you see on the business side of security solutions?
A. Government’s influence on security is starting to increase manifold from what it was years ago. Previously, commercial establishments used to decide on their level of security but now things have changed to such a setup that the government directs them to do it in a certain way. When I say the government, it does not mean that the ministry is directly driving it, but they are using nodal agencies to do so. The major airports in our country are undergoing modernisation in terms of security too.
Another trend is that tech adoption has moved away from being limited to the cream of the companies in India. It has penetrated to a lot of smaller private companies who understand the value of security.
Q. What is the exciting breakthrough you await that you think will make this segment even more exciting?
A. What is restricting this industry today is interoperability. Today, manufacturers are creating products which talk to their own eco-systems and not to the general broader system.
Q. What are the different customer segments that you have in India?
A. Some of the early adopters of our technology and products are banks and other institutions that have an inherent requirement for securing their premises. The other segments that we cater to are defence, government, energy (power and oil), and airports. We provide security solutions to the Delhi International airport and the Delhi metro.
Q. Which office at HID do I reach out to if I am a new customer?
A. Any customer in South Asia region can contact the HID Bengaluru office or send an e-mail to email@example.com.
Q. Which office at HID do I reach out to if I am a system integrator?
A. Any system integrator in South Asia region can contact the HID Bengaluru office or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q. What are your views on the industry-readiness of freshers from institutes like NITs?
A. One of the biggest challenges faced by the security sector is attracting the talent of engineers. It seems that the glamour quotient is not high enough for this field.
Q. What kind of training do you provide to freshers to make them ready for work?
A. We are working with the Fire and Safety Association of India (FSAI) to set up certification programmes that will impart training to freshers and engineers thus helping them to enter this field.
Q. What are the future plans of HID Global?
A. The key directions that we are trying to focus on right now is government, defene, oil and gas, and transportation. These sectors are not early adopters but nevertheless they are very important. We plan to reach out to them to get more of a technology perspective (and less of a business perspective).
Another area is that tier 2 and tier 3 markets are growing in a big way. We are working on a distribution model to make things bigger and robust in this segment.