Queensland drivers first to get smartcard

E-commerce and other applications possible

Smart State drivers will be among the first in the world to hold a smartcard for a licence as the technology implementation is finalized and a pilot begins next year.

Executive director of Queensland Transport's information management division Paul Summergreene said the New Queensland Drivers Licence (NQDL) project was first proposed in 2001 and is now in the procurement process.

Summergreene, who spent 20 years as a police officer and 10 years as a CIO, said with the first driver's licences introduced some 40 years ago supporting them is out of date and requires pieces to be taken from all over the world just to keep it alive.

"You can look at a driver's licence in different ways, but the NQDL will bring in lots of different aspects of a driver's licence, business processes and future prospects," Summergreene said, adding if a smartcard licence can be used for "other outcomes" its expense can be justified.

It's these "other outcomes" like authentication and even e-commerce that will make the NQDL unique among Australian, and even world driver's licences.

With Queensland Transport managing some 2.7 million licences, Summergreene said the NQDL is one of the largest smartcard implementations of its kind in the world and will have a profound effect on business processes, not just the licence itself.

The existing process for issuing a learner's permit involves a lot of "over the counter" customer interaction and the NQDL is expected to take much of this away. The US state of California is issuing driver's licence renewals online and Queensland will have the capability to do the same with a central distribution operation mailing out the licence.

"There is a lot of volume going through customer service centres [and] the distribution house will have a turnaround time of a number of days," Summergreene said.

Another change will involve how a person's information is stored on the card. Studies showed most female drivers don't want a home address shown on the card, so it will stored on the microchip instead. Police will have to use back-end systems to verify a person's information.

"This is also the most volatile piece of information with over 500,000 changes per year," Summergreene said. "The other thing is the expiry date. I want to lose the expiry date as it is not relevant."

With each card having a mandatory pin code, Summergreene is adamant the licence will put rights back to the individual, including what is stored on it.

The project has been a five-year journey, which Summergreene inherited in 2006, and the business case took "four bleeding years". The original concept was to outsource everything in a public-private partnership model but that was watered down to outsourcing the components which Queensland Transport does not have as much expertise with and keeping the core data systems in-house.

Queensland Transport will work with EDS, Auspost, and is going to tender for the smartcard management system now.

Speaking at this year's Australian Smart Cards Summit in Sydney, Summergreene said the project will build a platform that is reusable for e-government and single sign-on for a de facto public key infrastructure (PKI).

"This platform will go ballistic in terms of potential of use," he said. "The one that bites everyone on the butt is privacy but I'm committed to privacy."

"It's more than a card. If you take away the fact it is used as a licence it can be used by private industry, so it's an interesting challenge where we go with industry. There are major opportunities for people and government and hopefully industry will invest in the technology."

With the national Access Card arriving around the same time as the NQDL, Queensland transport is adopting a model of a common platform based on industry standards to avoid another rail gauge problem.

"We are trying to engage as many authorities as possible, so what we do can be used for a long time," Summergreene said. "The driver licence is made up of a number of parts and putting them together is a huge challenge."

Summergreene was tight-lipped when asked about the budget for the project, and ruled out a credit card style tariff for potential e-commerce transactions.

Queensland Transport has 400 IT staff and has a budget of about $100 million.

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