Digital fingerprint
#Identity Technology

CLIP ID: putting passport security in the picture

Technical Innovation
5 Mins.

The portrait photo at the center of any identity document will always be a primary focus for counterfeiters and forgers. But cutting-edge security technology from Veridos not only secures the genuine image, but also delivers a vibrant, clean color picture.

Background: blending art and security

Modern passports are works of art. Their pages are full of colorful, intricate designs that celebrate a country’s uniqueness, as well incorporating numerous levels of security – some visible, some hidden.

Take the winners of the Best New Passport Awards in 2023 and 2021 – the new passports of Costa Rica and Bangladesh, which won the accolades for the Latin America and Asia regions, respectively.1,2 Their visa pages are decorated with images of their country’s iconic monuments, symbols of national pride, and flora and fauna (from tree frogs, tigers, and water lilies, to volcanoes and monasteries), all of which are subtly employed as security features that enhance verification.

But these biometric passports, co-created by Veridos3 in partnership with the countries’ issuing authorities and local systems integrators, did not win the awards for their design excellence alone. The data page in each case – the single polycarbonate page featuring the holder’s key alphanumeric and biometric data – uses cutting-edge innovation from Veridos, including its color portrait technology CLIP ID.

The capability of CLIP ID (short for Color Laser Image Protected ID) to print the holder’s picture on the passport’s polycarbonate page in vibrant, sharp colors makes visual verification reliable and quick, while making the document almost impossible to forge. It’s an innovation that was a direct response to a pressing customer need.

ePassport in use

Overcoming passport portrait challenges

For over two decades, the passport sector has been transitioning to the use of color personalization on polycarbonate. However, when the polycarbonate data page was first introduced, passport issuers lost the ability to print color portrait photos on that plastic page and had to revert to black and white (previously, color pictures were printed with inkjet technology on a paper data page which was then laminated).

Polycarbonate passports have now become the global standard, but today’s governments expect them to feature a high-quality color photo. According to ABI Research, 104 million polycarbonate (PC) passports were shipped worldwide in 2022, up from 60.1 million in 2020. By 2025, that number is expected to hit 125 million,4 with around 50 countries having issued PC passports.

The challenge that Veridos rose to was to create a truly vivid and highly secure color image on a PC data page. Getting that combination right is vital because the passport photo is a primary area of focus for forgeries, especially when fraudsters increasingly use freely available ‘morphing’ software to blend a copy of a genuine passport photo with a fraudulent portrait.

CLIP ID’s cutting-edge technology not only addresses that challenge of printing color on polycarbonate, but it does so by taking image security to a new level, making the image impossible to forge:

CLIP ID personalization splits a single digital photo source into grayscale and color versions using a proprietary Veridos technique. Once those are combined on the page, they are inseparable. While the grayscale photo is lasered into the document along with the biographic data, the color fraction of the photo is printed on the special structured CLIP ID area of the document body, which is introduced in the lamination process. The joint photos together show a perfect color image. That also makes it easy to detect a manipulated document simply by touching the image with a finger or viewing it under an infrared light.

  • Clarity of image The quality of the image makes CLIP ID technology stand out from the competition. It can capture photos at 600 dpi, which is up to four times the resolution offered by other technologies.
  • Skin tone CLIP ID technology renders skin tone very accurately, a critical capability for ensuring inclusivity across all cultures and global regions.
  • Cost-effective production Rather than creating multiple layers, the CLIP ID solution uses a sophisticated lens structure that can be easily integrated into the ID card or biometric passport during production, with no additional steps required. That ensures the blank document production is cost-effective.
  • Personalization By combining laser engraving with inkjet technology during personalization, consumables are saved, adding to the cost-effectiveness of the solution.
  • Durability and long-lasting The CLIP ID process produces a robust image designed to stay sharp throughout the lifespan of any ID card or passport.
Structure of the Clip ID echo security system

CLIP ID image protection, however, is not a standalone capability. It is integrated with an array of features designed to secure identity and prevent forgery and counterfeiting. The passport Veridos helped to create for Costa Rica for example, includes over 60 security features, including:

  • ePassport chip Passports are fitted with a highly robust NFC chip containing encrypted personal details and the biometric data of its owner, including digitized versions of their color passport photo and fingerprints .
  • Window protection The all-important data page includes a transparent protection in the form of a secondary personalized photo in a clear window.
  • MAGIC-ID An advanced multiple-image technology in which pixels are pre-printed in a special configuration so that images appear to move in multiple directions, depending on the angle at which the card is viewed. That makes the passport easy to verify but very difficult to counterfeit.
  • Enhanced optical security features These include: a holographic strip, latent images, microtext, security threads, intaglio, relief patterns, multiple laser images, and flipbook animations – some visible to the human eye, others undetectable.
“A cornerstone of a modernized country: the use of color photos gives ID documents a contemporary and professional appearance. By incorporating CLIP ID and CLIP ID Echo, public confidence in the security and reliability of the document can be increased.“
Jan-Patrick Bachmann
Product Manager, Veridos

Milestones in identity innovation

Veridos is not resting on its laurels with CLIP ID. The technology now extends to ID cards and driver’s licenses.

And last year, it launched an enhanced version, CLIP ID Echo, that dials up image protection even further. With CLIP ID Echo, an additional image is placed between the existing photo layers, increasing the ease and confidence with which the document can be visually verified as authentic. The repeated picture and biographical data (such as a birthdate or an expiry date) are only visible from certain angles.

With the popularity of PC passports, the adoption of CLIP ID is heading for an important milestone. Bangladesh has issued over 8.4 million since it launched its biometric passport in January 2020. Its passport department is currently producing ePassports at a rate of 25,000 per day at its production facility in Dhaka for distribution through 70 regional offices and over 100 embassies and consulates.

With Costa Rica expected to have issued around half a million biometric passports5 since the launch in March 2022, the number of passports featuring CLIP ID around the world is due to cross the 10 million mark around the end of 2023.

That growth will be accelerated further in coming years by the debut of CLIP ID-enabled passports in Europe.

And CLIP ID is still evolving. One new feature under development by the Veridos team is the ability to incorporate CLIP ID technology into a passport’s secondary image for added security.

That highlights just how far passports have come in recent years. Just over a decade ago, most identity verification depended on the authenticity of a glued-in black-and-white passport photo. Now technologies like CLIP ID have advanced to such a level that the holder’s photo is one the most secure elements in of a passport, making it highly reliable and almost impossible to forge.

Key takeaways

  • Creating a clean, yet highly secure, color image on a modern passport’s data page has been an industry challenge.
  • Now almost one million passports address that need by using Veridos CLIP ID – in Latin America, Asia, and (soon) Europe.
  • That identity technology is evolving to make ID documents almost impossible to fake or manipulate.
  1. Reconnaissance International Regional ID Document of the Year awards (Latin America): Best New ePassport 2023 – Costa Rica

  2. Reconnaissance International Regional ID Document of the Year (Asia): Best New ePassport 2021 – Bangladesh

  3. Veridos is a joint venture between G+D and Bundesdruckerei, the German state printing service

  4. Polycarbonate Passport Issuance, ABI Research, 2011

  5. Press Release 25/11/22, Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería, Costa Rica, 2022

Published: 25/08/2023

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