The Hong Kong Immigration Department is using security firm Thales to develop smart identity cards for the island’s citizens.

The card will replace existing paper ID cards over the next four years. 

"The security of each individual's personal data is one of our highest priorities for this project," said Raymond Wong of the Hong Kong Immigration Department.

Thales's smart card personalisation process, dubbed P3, will encrypt cardholders' personal data. Citizens will have the option to include a digital certificate that allows other functions, such as public library services. 

With the digital certificate, the card can also be used for secure e-mail communication and e-commerce. A chip in smart card also has space for new applications in the future.

Thales is working with ACI Worldwide to provide the software to control the applications that reside in the cards. 

"[This] is a significant e-government initiative with stringent data privacy and security requirements," said Paul Meadowcroft, head of transaction security of the e-Security activities of the Thales Group.