Five reasons why we need (and will need) physical documents

Time to time people working in anti-counterfeiting protection industry meet the following objection. Isn’t the industry on the verge of extinction? Don’t we enter an era without physical documents and with all identity information

For us, in OPTAGLIO it would not be too bad. We would simply focus on areas such as brand protection, technical components protection and car protection against stealing. However, these questions bring a nice opportunity to do away with a movie based vision of a world without physical ID cards, passports, and similar documents. People would not need to care for their ID cards, membership cards, banknotes etc. Time to time a sensor would read your voice, iris or fingerprint, something would be done in computer systems and that would be all. The door opens, a contract is approved, a proper sum is transferred to the right account. Anything perfect and simple.

We can answer that interest in the anti-counterfeit protection of ID cards and other physical documents in growing. However, we should also underline the issue is more serious. Life without physical documents would not work. And if it worked it would be difficult to live in such a world.

  • Users want to hold something in their hands: a document, paper, credit card, banknotes etc. There are some geeks totally happy with mere icons on the screen of their smartphones but it is not the case for most people. The more important the issue is the more we need to hold something physical.
  • Even if most people would be “educated”, special need groups stay with us such as seniors. We can remind a recent debacle of the attempt of Czech Social Security to send all pension to bank accounts and provide all pensioners with payment cards. Would they be able to live just with passwords, virtual cards in smartphones etc.?
  • There are also other groups that would be too vulnerable in the electronic-only world. Quite young people with high cognitive abilities perhaps don’t spot anything different but it is true that you need the high ability of abstract thinking in a world without physical documents. Paying through putting banknotes at the table is easier to understand than paying through electronic transfer. Closing contract through ID card check, physical identification and signing with a pen is easier to understand than just entering PIN to a system. In a world without physical ID cards, entire groups would be totally helpless towards cheaters.
  • Security. Ask any information security expert and you will hear that relying only on biometrics (fingerprint, voice, iris etc.) is dangerous. You can change cards if the confidentiality of their number is broken by hackers. Will you change hands if the confidentiality of fingerprints database is broken?
  • Last but not least, availability of information systems. Living without physical documents would mean that deleting information from systems prevents you from proving that you are you and your house is yours.

The strong reason for replacing physical ID cards is a comfort. It is logical that there is a growing number of projects based on biometry. We can understand that there are even projects based solemnly on biometry. However, we will never be able to rely just on biometry readers. It is good. Would you like your future without your ID card, passport and birth certificate? Would you like future where you deleting information from government systems would mean that you are deleted, including your property, pension, health insurance etc.?

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