Why Value-Added Services Make a Difference to Security

For secure electronic identification documents such as ePassports, or indeed wherever security is a top priority, RFID hardware alone cannot deliver a complete solution, says Ralf Henn, Senior Vice President, Business Division Secure ID & Transactions at SMARTRAC. Instead, services and certifications make a real difference.


In the view of many customers, SMARTRAC is mainly a supplier of high-quality components. What is the significance of value-added services for SMARTRAC and its customers?


For sure, some customers see SMARTRAC as a hardware manufacturer. And, of course, this is a valid observation. We are proud to have the largest installed production capacity in the RFID industry, and continue to be the global market leader for RFID transponders and inlays. Whenever it comes to security however, you definitely need a wider perspective, and have to take value-added services into account.


Can you explain that wider perspective?


You have to look beyond the hardware, beyond the single inlay and beyond the bulk of a million inlays. To ensure maximum security, you have to consider processes and services like Module Packaging, Chip Initialization and Zero Balancing. And if you do so, you also need a supplier that has a value chain and production sites that are certified according to the highest standards – like SMARTRAC.


What are the certifications that customers should look for if they require maximum security?


It is not sufficient to have only ICs and inlays that are certified. What really separates the wheat from the chaff is certification of production sites and processes. To start with, the production sites should be security-certified by a recognized worldwide certification authority. SMARTRAC’s Thailand production site is certified according to EAL 5+ and its US site is NASPO certified, enabling redundancy of manufacturing capabilities.


In terms of process certification, SMARTRAC will soon be the world’s only inlay manufacturer with security credentials for value-added services including Zero Balancing, Module Packaging and Flash OS Loading. Leveraging our global manufacturing network, we are able to provide a “white list” for 9 million inlays per month – the only RFID manufacturer with that capacity.


What is your outlook regarding the future of eGovernment solutions?


In today’s world, the quest for improved security will continue, most likely at an even quicker pace. As the global leader in high-quality and high-security RFID inlays for identity documents, we can overcome the challenges of working at different security levels. Just to give you an example: chip development is moving towards using Flash memory for the operating system. Very soon, we will be the first inlay manufacturer able to deploy that new technology in governmental applications. At the same time, SMARTRAC will comply with the highest security standards, because we are currently working hard to be certified according to the new Common Criteria EAL 6 standard, which covers Flash OS Loading. I’m very optimistic that SMARTRAC will be the first RFID company to earn that certification – just as we were the first to earn EAL 5+ in 2009.

eGovernment Value-Added Services at a Glance


Module Packaging, Flash OS Loading, Chip Initialization and Zero Balancing are some of the value-added services that SMARTRAC offers its customers and partners in addition to its comprehensive product portfolio for secure electronic identification documents.


  • Module (chip) Packaging is the final stage of semiconductor device fabrication, in which the single IC is released from the wafer and is mounted in a supporting case.
  • Chip Initialization is the installation of the operating system and personalization of ROM- and Flash-based controller chips.
  • Flash OS Loading allows the OS to be uploaded to the flash memory of the controler chip.
  • Zero Balancing is the process of assigning individual chip IDs to individual inlay IDs, resulting in a comprehensive “white list”.


These services are just a few of the value-added services that make SMARTRAC a one-stop shop for its eID customers.


As a reliable and certified supplier, SMARTRAC can reduce supply-chain and handling complexities for its customers, and guarantees a consistent and proven level of quality from one source throughout the manufacturing process.

A Quick Guide to Certification


The Common Criteria for Information Technology Security Evaluation (aka Common Criteria or CC) represent an international standard (ISO/IEC 15408) for computer security certification, in use since 1999. Following a Common Criteria security evaluation, a product or system is assigned an Evaluation Assurance Level (EAL1 through EAL7). The higher the EAL number, the higher the number of assurance requirements that must be met to achieve Common Criteria certification. Regarding the production process of RFID inlays with respect to eID documents and smart cards, Common Criteria EAL is the internationally most relevant certification system.


CC EAL certifications for inlay production processes are granted by several certification bodies, for instance by the French Agence nationale de la sécurité des systèmes d'information (ANSSI), the German Bundesamt für Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik (BSI), or the North American Security Products Organization (NASPO) in the US. SMARTRAC was the first inlay manufacturer to earn a Common Criteria EAL 5+ certification from BSI, the highly regarded German certification authority. By seeking to be certified according to EAL 6, SMARTRAC will be maintaining the same level of security as the leading IC manufacturers. In addition, EAL 6 will cover Flash OS Loading.


If you have any further questions about SMARTRAC’s value-added services portfolio, please contact us.