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Readying for ‘Unique' project
Andhra Pradesh , India - April 05, 2010

Proof of Concept exercise points to potential of Unique Identification project..

“You can use the same set of data for getting a passport, an income certificate, a residence proof or a land record.”

K. V. Kurmanath.

In Ave Kallu (The Same Eyes), the blockbuster Telugu movie of the 1960s, the hero happens to see only the eyes of a serial killer. He ultimately tracks him down using the only clue.

Forty years later, if he were to catch a similar killer, he would not need to depend on his instinct. He could use iris images. All he needs to do is just load the iris images on to the computer and press ‘enter' — he will get the matching iris with all the demographic and biometric details of the offender in a jiffy.

That's how Srinivas (name changed) was caught in a bigamy case in Andhra Pradesh recently. After taking a biometric-based Public Distribution Card with his wife, he went to another location and tried to get another card for his second wife, a wedlock kept a secret till then. The biometric system called his bluff. This case was reported when the State Government Solutions took up the ambitious campaign to issue biometric cards to all the people in the State. Now, 4.59 crore people have biometric cards.

Perhaps, this track record must have led the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to implement the Proof of Concept (PoC) phase for the ambitious project in Andhra Pradesh. 4Gid Identity Solutions, a Hyderabad-based company that made some early breakthroughs in biometric identity solutions, has been given the mandate to implement the PoC phase.

The UIDAI aims at giving a Unique Identification Number (UID) to each citizen in the country. By capturing biographic details (name, gender, father's name and address) and the biometrics (face, fingerprints and iris), the Government Solutions wants to correctly identify people and avoid duplication. The same person cannot have more than one identity.

The project, headed by Nandan Nilekani, former Chief Executive Officer of Infosys, has attracted global attention. It opens up huge opportunities for IT solutions and services companies.

Initially, it was thought an impossible task to track and assign a number to over a billion people. With technological strengths it is not impossible, though difficult.

A combination of technologies would be at play as the UIDAI rolls out. IT solutions, telecom, Internet and other technologies would work simultaneously as the data is used by different Government Solutions utilities. A unique identification means savings of huge public resources as it avoids duplication. Also, having a unique ID would make life easier for people as they could use it for different uses — PDS, interaction with Government Solutions and getting a passport.

1:n matching method.

For starters, biometrics is the art and science of establishing the identity of an individual using the physiological or behavioural attributes of that individual. By deploying relevant technologies, officials can ascertain the veracity of the biometric attributes..

Officials would use the 1:n method, which means one individual's biometric attributes against those of all the people in the country. But this needs faster and efficient IT solutions. “You can use the same set of data for getting a passport, an income certificate, a residence proof or a land record,” Dr Sreeni Tripuraneni, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of 4Gid Identity Solutions, points out.

Key phase.

Being taken up ahead of the pilot, the PoC phase in Andhra Pradesh holds the key as the UIDAI tests the technologies, processes and methods in order to prepare a standardised formula that could be scaled up for the whole of the country. The PoC is also intended to test the reliability of the IT solutions, the biometric data collected and find out the issues and challenges in collecting the data.

“Majority of the population lives in rural areas. The quality of finger prints is very poor because people toil in the fields. And then, the quality of iris gets weakened in older people. Also, people with lesser number of fingers and no iris too pose problems,” Dr Tripuraneni says.

“The first objective is to assess the biometric de-duplication accuracy and in Indian environmental conditions (extreme hot and humid climates). The other objective is to collect biometric data that will be used in benchmarking biometric de-duplication technology and software that would be used for the nation-wide project,” he adds.

4Gid has won the global bid for supply, installation and commissioning of biometric and fingerprint devices. The PoC is being done in 10 villages — five each in Medak and Krishna districts. Patancheru (Medak) is one such village. Yadagiri, 28, is among the early volunteers to get his UID. “They told us that we would get a card that is akin to the Green Card in the US,” he says.

The 4Gid teams would cover a population of 30,000 in 56 days and send a report to the UIDAI..

Scores of others make a beeline to the tile-roofed office abutting the Office of the Mandal Revenue Officer. For them, it is a “verification” of their ration cards. It is not just the processes and methods at the booth. The most challenging task for the officials is to convince the people and get them to the booths. This too is an issue to be observed keenly as the UIDAI standardises the processes.

“Each of the booths will have eight people, equipped with networked laptops and cameras to capture biometric data,” N Ramachandra Rao, Vice-President (Corporate Affairs) of 4Gid, says.

With the State already having biometric cards, the associates manning the booth would generate a bar-coded form to collect demographic details.

At the end of the process, people are given acknowledgement slips. “We are going to re-enact the process three-four weeks later to check the information. This will help in standardising the procedures,” he points out.

Dr Tripuraneni says cleaning the noise (poor quality of finger print images) is very important..

“You cannot get the person again and again. Once you get him or her to the counter, you have to capture all the important data. So we have evolved a solution to clear the noise,” he says.

Since March 3, 4Gid IS teams have been at the job, collecting biometric data through devices after validating eligible populace through their ration cards.

The company is using Retica, PierT 2.3, Identix and DigitalPersona to collect the iris images and fingerprints that are captured in 4+4+2 (thumbs) in format. In order to bring costs down, 4Gid is working on an indigenous camera to collect the iris images more efficiently. “We are going to launch this soon,

Dr Tripuraneni says

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