US Army to issue soldiers with wearable contactless IDs

Solidiers looking at screen
CONTACTLESS: The US Army plans to replace Common Access Cards with wearable ID tokens (inset)

The US Army is looking to replace its current smartcard-based Common Access Card (CAC) with “wireless, lightweight, flexible and rugged” wearable contactless identity tokens that can be inserted into a soldier’s pocket, attached to a sleeve or integrated into a wristband.

“The US Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, or CCDC, is researching and developing authentication technologies that will provide soldiers with secure and simple ways to identify, authenticate and be authorised access to Army networks, operating systems, servers, laptops, applications, web services, radios, weapon systems and handheld devices,” the US Army says.

“Conceptually, soldiers wearing these tokens could simply approach a system to log in, be recognised by that system, which would then prompt the soldier to enter a PIN or use a biometric as a second factor, and be automatically logged out when they walk out of the system’s range.”

The wearable identity tokens combine the security of a public key-based credential — similar to the credential on the CAC — with cutting-edge advances in the commercial wireless payment industry and flexible hybrid electronics, says Ogedi Okwudishu, project lead for the Tactical Identity and Access Management (TIDAM) programme.

“Soldiers should not have to take out a smartcard, insert it into a card reader and then remember to remove the card from the reader when they are done,” Okwudishu explains.

“Contactless identity tokens are not only easy to use, they provide significant cost savings for the Army. You can continue to add authentication capabilities without needing to redesign, or deploy, new, tactical hardware to every laptop, server, handheld device or weapon system in the field.”

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