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Smartphones to renew Emirates IDs by end of 2013

The service is currently being piloted and will be available by the end of the year

A typing centre at Mazaya Centre
Image Credit: Oliver Clarke/Gulf News
A typing centre at Mazaya Centre in Dubai accepts ID card applications. Children not yet registered for an Emirates ID card must be signed up for the national identity scheme by the end of September.
Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: UAE residents will soon be able to renew their Emirates ID cards using their smartphones, a senior official said on Sunday.

The service is currently being piloted and will be available by the end of the year. It will act as a precursor to a host of other official services becoming available through smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices, said Dr Ali Al Khoury, director-general at the Emirates Identity Authority (Emirates ID).

“To date, the Emirates ID has introduced a range of online services to make processes faster and easier for residents. This new smartphone service, enabled through mobile applications, will make it easier not only to undertake transactions with the Emirates ID but also allow for the use of smartphone applications to avail of other government services that require identity verification,” Dr Al Khoury told Gulf News.

He was speaking at a press conference held to discuss the Emirates ID’s future strategies and plans. During a demonstration, officials extracted personal information from an Emirates ID card using a smartphone’s Near Field Communication (NFC) capabilities. NFC, a radio communication standard that is activated when two compatible devices are brought in close proximity, is commonly used to exchange data between mobile devices.

At present, residents can visit typing centres for ID card renewal or fill out a simple electronic form available on the Emirates ID website.

“Our records show that nearly 80 per cent of the UAE population use mobile devices that have NFC-capabilities. By the end of 2013, this proportion will increase to about 95 per cent of the population, making the smartphone renewal option even more viable,” Dr Al Khoury said.

“In addition, all Emirates IDs issued after the end of 2010 are NFC-compatible. In fact, as ID cards continue to be renewed, all of the NFC-incompatible cards will be replaced with compatible ones by the end of 2014,” he added.

The official also said that the technology could be extended so that smartphones are used to restrict and provide access to buildings, or to obtain airline boarding passes.

“In essence, any activity that requires identity verification could be achieved through a smartphone or mobile device that has the relevant application and is paired with an Emirates ID,” Dr Al Khoury said.

There are also plans to allow residents to use other means to renew ID cards, including text messages or calling a specific centre.

To date, the authority has issued more than 14 million ID cards. In the first six months of 2013, more than 2.8 million cards were issued.

Another Emirates ID initiative will allow for personal information to be easily updated by linking various government departments.

“Currently, a change in personal information, such as the birth of a new child, is painstaking and requires residents to visit many different government departments. Once these links are created, a new birth recorded at a hospital could send a notification to the Emirates ID, and an ID card for the baby could be automatically printed and delivered to the family. Other departments that use such information could also be informed,” Dr Al Khoury said.

For this project, the authority hopes to integrate with key government entities in education, health, justice, labour and state security. While five entities will set up the required links in 2013, about nine others are expected to come on board by mid-2014.

“The eventual aim is to make customer transactions that use identity verification easier and more secure through the use of Emirates IDs, which are encrypted with the highest levels of digital security for this purpose,” he added.

Emirates ID is also working to extend the use of ID cards for identity validation purposes in a range of services. To this end, the authority expects to distribute about 500,000 card readers free of charge to entities wishing to use them.

“This idea was piloted a year and a half ago, and it allows organisations to use ID cards to verify people’s IDs. It could negate the need for companies to issue their own access or identity cards,” he said.