No dates for secure plates


The Gauteng Department of Transport says no new dates have been set for the implementation of its secure, intelligent number plate system. After failing to meet all its previous deadlines, the project is awaiting decisions by the newly appointed Transport MEC.

According to spokesman Alfred Nhlapo, it is up to the Gauteng Roads and Transport MEC Bheki Nkosi when the project will be implemented, ITWeb notes. But, with a “host of things in the department to deal with”, Nhlapo says no date has been set.

Nhlapo says the MEC will make an announcement once he has “applied his mind” to the project. The scheduled annual report will also indicate what needs to be done, the budget for the project and how the project will continue, says Nhlapo.

The electronic number plate system will place a number validation label on the rear window of vehicles, along with a bar code that traffic authorities will be able to scan. Number plate manufacturers will also have to be accredited and plates bolted onto vehicles with tamper-proof screws to prevent fraud.

“Right now, we are still engaged in research with the CSIR over the security features of the plates. This is an ongoing process and will only be completed once we are sure about the security aspects of the new number plates.”

According to Nhlapo, the department is in the process of registering all prospective and practising licence plate manufacturers. The Intelligent Number Plates system requires all people involved in the number plate business to be registered with, and authorised by, the Gauteng Department of Roads and Transport.

The fraud-proof plates form part of the province’s R75 million integrated safety and security system. The department stated that it had embarked on the project in response to criminal activities. The old number plate system, which was often susceptible to fraudulent duplication and registration, was identified as a security risk.

Initiated in 2006, the project was announced by previous Transport MEC Ignatius Jacobs in his 2007/8 budget speech. Jacobs then announced a six-month testing of the audit trail of the new number plate would begin in August 2007, and that full-scale implementation was scheduled for 1 January 2008.

In July 2008, Jacobs announced the implementation of the project had been postponed to January 2009, once “extensive consultations” with stakeholders had been completed.

A model plate was presented to the MEC and a member of the Gauteng Portfolio Committee on Public Transport Roads and Works, and industry representatives, in 2008. It was announced that the state attorney was also considering proposed regulations, following which the system would be tested for efficiency.

In March, Nhlapo confirmed the implementation of the project had yet to begin.

According to the Transport Department, all plates will be aluminium – the standard for plates internationally. The aluminium prevents the hiding of rogue radio frequency devices behind plates and ensures only the plate radio frequency identification (RAFID) tag is read. It also ensures the signal from the RFID tag is transmitted in a “predetermined and limited direction”.

The secure plates will also have an RFID tag that contains a unique identification code programmed into a 2D bar code. The unique code will be used in the encryption of the tag and contain a secure electronic mark. This mark will act as a digital signature and will certify the numbers on plate, the vehicle it was issued to, and if they were issued by a registered manufacturer.

The 2D bar code will link the RFID tag to the plate and will be stamped into the plate. The RFID tag works like a radar device; thus, if the reader cannot see the tag, line-of-sight, then the reader cannot read the codes. The tag has been designed to be read from no more than three metres.