A Study of Channel Management Strategies
Tak Ming Lam
Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Keywords: e-Government, e-channel, channel management.
Abstract: This paper studies the operation and IT applications in Hong Kong e-channel, including the network,
authentication, and database management, the overall benefits and costs, the evaluation of the IT investment
justification, followed by potential problems of e-channel and possible solutions, finally, a comparison will be
made between Hong Kong e-channel and US e-channel, with further recommendations, followed by a brief
conclusion. E-channel is an Automated Passenger Clearance System which was launched on 16 December
2004, in order to enhance the efficiency of the clearance system.
Each terminal is connected to the central
management and database server to transfer the in/out
record and report any abnormal situation. For data
flow, as those in/out records are confidential, a good
protection to prevent from leaking information is
necessary. Wired connection is the best way as the
information can hardly be unauthorized accessed.
The Hong Kong Immigration Department also has
the authority to use dedicated line to build WAN
connecting among different locations. That is, using
CAT5 or optical fiber to connect from different
passenger control points such as Lo Wu, Lok Ma
Chau to the central database server, located in Wai
Chai. Apart from that, there is a wireless network
(WiFi) connecting to palms of inspectors who
monitor the operation of e-channel. As the
information transferred through the wireless network
is not that confidential, it is justifiable to use it. In fact,
WiFi has certain kinds of protections for data
In terms of the authentication, the most important part
of the e-channel, a double identification is
implemented, which contains verification of smart ID
card and biometric verifying using fingerprint. A
Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) is applied in the
e-channel system. Both the private key and public
key are saved in the smart ID card and the private key
is encrypted by user’s fingerprint. When obtaining
the fingerprint after the user inserting the smart ID
card, data of the fingerprint will decode the private
key and check whether the pair of private key and the
public key is valid, so that it will be able to identify
the authentication. The database of Hong Kong
Immigration Department is one of the most
confidential and important databases in the
government. A large amount of in/out records has to
be processed every day.
First, the implementation of e-channel can save labor
cost. The traditional counter needs one inspector for
each counter to monitor people who go through the
customs and check their identities. However, in order
to help those people who have difficulty in passing
through the e-channel, in practice, one inspector is
needed to monitor 4 to 5 e-channels. Therefore, the
number of inspectors to be employed can be reduced,
which helps to save much labor cost.
The second benefit is that immigration inspection
with e-channel is more reliable than using the
traditional counter. In the traditional counter, the
inspector will just check whether the ID card is valid
or not, and then check whether the photo on the ID
card is similar to the user’s face. They seldom check
Ming Lam T. (2008).
In Proceedings of the International Conference on e-Business, pages 470-472
DOI: 10.5220/0001911104700472
in detail whether the user is the owner of the ID card.
The reason is that the validity of your ID card will be
checked before you can enter the e-channel, and it
will then check your fingerprint to ensure that you are
the owner of the ID card. Besides, in the e-channel
system, there is an infrared ray scan.
The third main benefit of implementing e-channel is
that it can save the space and time for the customs
service. Some space is needed for placing the
computer, some is for the inspectors to sit and some is
left for the corridor. However, the e-channel does not
need any computer or inspectors sitting there, but
only a corridor for people to go through.
Last but not least, the implementation of e-channel
can improve the image of Hong Kong. Since not
many countries have adopted similar systems, having
the automatic e-channel implemented may give Hong
Kong a superior representation as a more
internationalized city, so that the image of Hong
Kong can be improved.
The first problem is about the data security. In the
traditional ID card, only basic information is
provided. However, in order to match the new
e-channel system and other new functions of Hong
Kong smart ID card, extra information which is more
important and confidential has been added it. Thus,
private information of citizens may leak out if the key
is exposed.
The second problem is concerning about the
fingerprint identification used in e-channel.
Sometimes, a person may be blocked in the e-channel.
The most possible reason is that some people may
have problems in their fingerprints
The final problem is the chance of chip damage.
Theoretically, the card reader retrieves information
by detecting the yellow chip in the ID card. If there
are any damages in the chip, the card reader may not
read the information properly.
To cope with this problem, Hong Kong government
has already provided a cover for the card.
Furthermore, a landing contact of the card reader
instead of the friction contact is adopted. For card
readers of friction contact, the contact part is fixed.
US e-channel is designed for the application of the
US e-passport, which was newly introduced. The
United States requires that travelers entering the
United States under the Visa Waiver Program must
have an e-passport if their passports were issued on or
after October 26, 2006. According to the relevant
information provided on the website of United States
Department of State, the US e-passport contains a
contact-less integrated circuit, which is a 64 Kbit
RFID chip.
Compared to the technology used in Hong Kong
smart ID card and the chip reader in e-channel, the
application of RFID technology in the US e-channel
helps to speed up immigration inspections. However,
there are several security concerns about the
application of RFID in e-channel, such as skimming
the data in e-passport, eavesdropping
communications between the chip and reader,
tracking user of the e-passport, and cloning the
passport chip in order to facilitate identity theft
Basic Access Control (BAC) is implemented to
minimize the risk of skimming and eavesdropping. A
pair of secret cryptographic keys is stored in the chip
embedded in the e-passport. When the reader
attempts to read the information in the chip, it
engages in a challenge-response protocol that proves
knowledge of the pair of keys and derives a session
key. Only if authentication is successful can the RFID
reader access the data stored in the chip, so that Basic
Access Control reduces the possibility of
unauthorized access to the data.
However, the Unique Identifier (UID) can still be
communicated with the reader in this process, which
could theoretically allow the passport user to be
tracked. The United States Department of State uses a
Random Unique Identifier (RUID) to prevent the use
of UID for tracking. Each time the chip is accessed,
the e-passport presents a different UID which is not
associated with the UID used in sessions that precede
or follow the current session.
Cloning is another security concern that someone
may copy the information in one chip and store it in
another fake chip. The simplest way to mitigate this
action is to verify that the data in the chip match the
data presented in the e-passport, by checking the
photos and biographical data, etc. Additionally,
Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) has been introduced
to automatically confirm that the identity of the
of Channel Management Strategies
person presenting the e-passport matches the data
stored in the chip and shown on the passport.
Even though there have been many security
protections in the application of the US e-passport
and e-channel, the technology is still not mature
enough. In August 2006, a security researcher Lukas
Grunwald demonstrated the cloning of a European
Union e-passport at the Black Hat and DEFCON
security conferences in Las Vegas. (Martin, 2006)
The EU e-passport uses similar RFID technology to
the US e-passport. However, Randy Vanderhoof,
executive director of the Smart Card Alliance,
claimed that the data encoded in the chip is digitally
signed and locked by the issuing nation, and could
not be altered even if the chip was cloned. (O'Connor,
2006) Besides, these data are only basic information
presented on the passport data page, and a digital
photo. Even if the chip is cloned, there will not be
serious problems except that the photo may be used
for other purposes. (Reid, 2006) Nevertheless, people
still worry about the security of e-passport and the
RFID technology used in e-channel.
As mentioned above, US e-channel adopts the RFID
technology so that data in the chip can be accessed
about 10 centimeters away from the RFID reader.
Using Hong Kong e-channel, people need to insert
smart ID card, and the reader will contact the chip to
read data. This makes the immigration inspection in
Hong Kong slower than that in US. However, since
RFID technology has more security problems,
protections for the US e-passport and e-channel are
more than those in Hong Kong.
In terms of the biometric identification, US e-channel
uses face recognition while Hong Kong e-channel
uses fingerprint. Comparatively, fingerprint is more
accurate according to security experts (Kanellos,
Last but not least, electronic visa may also be
introduced for further convenience. When the visa is
stored in the chip in electronic form, it will save time
for the Customs officers to check. Costs especially
labor cost can be saved. However, it seems not
appropriate to introduce electronic visa until security
protection technologies become mature enough.
From the above, it is clear that various IT applications
in Hong Kong e-channel have brought lots of benefits
to citizens and the Hong Kong government. However,
problems and concerns still exist. Therefore, Hong
Kong government may constantly revise the system
and learn from other countries for further
improvement. E-channel is only one of the IT
applications of Hong Kong smart ID card. More
functions, such as public library service, can be
performed with the smart ID card. The development
of e-government has offered citizens and businesses
quicker and more convenient access to government
information and public services. There is a future
trend to achieve a more accessible, accountable and
efficient government for Hong Kong as a leading
digital city.
Corcoran, D. et, al. (1999). Smart Cards and Biometrics:
Your Key to PKI. Retrieved April 2, 2008 from
E-channel (2003). Retrieved March 25, 2008 from Hong
Kong Immigration Department http://
E-government in Hong Kong (2008). Retrieved April 10,
2008 from
Kanellos.M. (2004). E-passports to put new face on old
documents. Retrieved March 25, 2008 from,39042972
Martin. K. (2006). U.S. deploys first e-Passport readers.
Retrieved March 25,2008 from http://
National Database and Registration Authority.
(2005).Multi-Biometric E-Passport. Retrieved March
25, 2008 from
NXP. (2006).U.S. State Department Advances NXP
Technology for ePassport Program. Retrieved March
25, 2008 from
O'Connor. C. M. (2006). Industry Group Says E-Passport
Clone Poses Little Risk. Retrieved March 25, 2008 from
Reid. D. (2006). ePassports 'at risk' from cloning.
Retrieved March 25, 2008 from http://
Stone. M. (2003) E-government Challenges and the Hong
Kong Case Study of Smart Identity Card. Retrieved
April 2, 2008 from
The US Department of State. The U.S. Electronic Passport
Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved March 25,2008
ICE-B 2008 - International Conference on e-Business