China to issue 1.3 billion RFID identification cards

Rollout of resident ID cards represents one of the largest RFID projects in the world

China's Ministry of Public Security (MPS), which oversees the country's police force, plans to issue more than 1.3 billion second-generation resident identification cards based on RFID (radio frequency identification) chips, according to an industry analyst at In-Stat China.

Based on the number of new cards to be issued, the rollout represents one of the largest RFID projects in the world, according to Anty Zheng, research director at In-Stat China.

RFID tags can send and receive data over short distances. As a result, the new ID cards can be read by a reader that is within 20 centimeters to 30 centimeters of the card, Zheng said, noting that the cards are used to store basic personal information, such as name and birth date.

"It's very cheap and easy to make," Zheng said.

MPS has so far issued 102 million new cards, and plans to issue more than 300 million new cards per year for the next several years, the ministry said this week. Only local companies are allowed to participate in the project, Zheng said.

In-Stat estimated that 100 million RFID tags were sold in China during 2005. The number of tags shipped annually in China is expected to rise quickly in coming years, hitting total sales of 2.9 billion tags by 2009, it said.

The second-generation ID card project is expected to soak up most of this demand through 2008, at which time demand for RFID tags used in retail stores is expected to dominate the market, In-Stat said.