By Bai Yunyi, staff reporter of Global Times
In recent years, EyeSmart Technology Ltd (hereinafter referred to as EyeSmart), the Chinese enterprise I work for, has been participating in a giant project pushed forward by the Indian government – the AADHAAR Project, one of the world’s largest identification system of biological information. The project aims to collect the biological information of the 1.2 billion population in India with the aid of iris recognition technology. By doing that, India is likely to fulfill the leap from a country with great difficulties in identification recognition to one with the cutting-edge database of population information. The project is almost finished by now, and EyeSmart is among the suppliers of core technology.
At this moment, there is no unified system for identification recognition in India. There are tens of identification certificates issued in official channels, but none of them is of authoritativeness and a wide range of recognition. For example, people born in the slums have no identification information at all. Therefore, no one ever knows where they are from, and how old they are. Series social problems might be aroused by such chaotic situation. People “without identifications” cannot think of opening bank accounts of their own, applying for loan or passing the examination of driving license. Some of them cannot receive the poverty reduction support issued by the government, while some can even claim social security outlays for multiple repeated times. Therefore, corruption becomes a social stigma notably among the civil servants. The Indian government arranges for the least privileged people some special subsidies that amount to 250 billion U.S. dollars. But it is so difficult to collect the identification information of the massive poverty-stricken population in India, and it is said that 40% of the subsidies are embezzled by the civil servants. Under such circumstance, Prime Minister Modi has set a target of “Digital India”, and an identification system viable for all citizens is given top priority in this grand project. The project has to start from nothing, and Modi decides to settle the matter at one go by building a cutting-edge recognition system of biological information.
In the beginning, the Indian government planned to adopt the fingerprint identification system, which is already mature at the current stage. As a result, they introduced this technology from U.S. and European countries around 2010. Soon after that, the Indian government found it unlikely to popularize the fingerprint identification system to a great width. India is known for the high temperature in the entire year, and people here love to sweat. Therefore, the fingerprints of the Indian people are often abrased beyond recognition, which become unrecognizable no matter how hard people try to press their fingers. Besides, the exactitude of digitalized fingerprint identification system is invariably bottlenecked, which reaches only 1/10000 at its best. India has the world’s second largest population, and the cases of duplicate identification are hard to evade.
At that moment, the Chinese enterprises could already produce IT products with iris recognition technology at fairly low costs, thanks to the methods of miniaturization and industrialization. Therefore, we suggested that the Indian government replace the iris recognition with the fingerprint one. In the future, the name, contact number and other key information of an Indian citizen can be easily acquired as soon as he/she scan with his/her eyes in front of such device. Besides, every Indian citizen who gets registered in this system is given a fixed “citizen ID” of a 12-digit number. In 2012, EyeSmart started to produce iris acquisition equipment in India. The equipment of EyeSmart boasts fast speed, high exactitude, sound security and easy-for-all application, and the old and the young people can both use it in a quite convenient way. Thanks to these merits, the Indian government gave very high regards of our product, and started to build a nationwide database for the PIV (personal identification Verification).
Now that we have the database, how can we make the best of it? In the beginning, the Indian government could hardly find the right direction. In view of that, we suggested mobile terminal devices with iris recognition technology – smartphones, for example. We constructed an application scenario for the Indian government: in the streets and alleys of New Delhi, people only need to take a glimpse of a portable mobile terminal device and a bank account will be successfully opened for them; and another glimpse so that they can conveniently check in at a hotel… The Indian officials showed enormous interest in the feasible plan we submitted, but they invited 8, 9 foreign enterprises to carry out the technological evaluation process for the bid. Fortunately, EyeSmart came out first among all competitors in the evaluation process, and was given the necessary licenses issued by the Indian government. After that, we started to promote our mobile terminal devices with iris recognition technology in the Indian market.
At this moment, the situations in some places of India have already changed beyond recognition. The employers of telecommunication operation companies don’t have to sit straight in their offices; instead, they are holding in hand the mobile devices with iris identification function, helping their potential clients along the big streets and small alleys to open their own accounts. No printed credentials are needed, and they don’t need to sign their names or make a queue either. Everything will be settled thanks to the iris recognition technology.
In retrospection, the path taken by EyeSmart in India was by no means smooth. It is well known to all that the Indian authorities are especially cautious of the Chinese enterprises in the field of security. Take the AADHAAR Project for example, the enterprises are required to carry out large-scale tests of the bidding equipment with several thousands of testers before they earn the necessary qualifications. After the tests are passed, they have to submit over 50 documents that concern the processes of production, sales and patent, etc. To cope with that, we registered and founded a localized enterprise in India, and invited local investors and business partners who are possessed with broad social network and rich experiences. In retrospection, it is highly likely that the door became shut for us if we decided to bid for the project as a Chinese enterprise.
As a Chinese enterprise, EyeSmart has the unique advantages of its own. For one thing, we stand on top on the list of all competitors with regard to the technical indexes, compared with other enterprises from U.S. and European countries. The system we developed boast excellent practical uses. Secondly, a mobile terminal device of Samsung costs 200 U.S. dollars, while the price of a similar EyeSmart device is only half of that. Last but not least, the Chinese enterprises are given pretty good “soil of growth” thanks to the development of the Chinese manufacturing industry in recent years. Here I’d like to mention in specific the upstream and downstream industrial chain of high-quality gears, which our foreign competitors cannot ever dream of. ▲