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Make Data Work
Oct 15–17, 2014 • New York, NY

Architecting World's Largest Biometric Identity System - Aadhaar Experience

Pramod Varma (UIDAI)
2:35pm–3:15pm Thursday, 10/16/2014
Connected World
Location: 1 E12/1 E13
Tags: ngo
Average rating: ****.
(4.85, 13 ratings)
Slides:   1-PDF 

Unique Identification (Aadhaar) project was started with the vision of empowering every resident of India with a unique identity and providing a digital platform to authenticate anytime anywhere. The Aadhaar system is built on a sound strategy and a strong technology backbone and has evolved into a vital digital infrastructure. Meticulous planning and execution enabled the program to be launched ahead of plan in Sept 2010 and reach the kind of scale that was never achieved in any biometric identity system in the world. Aadhaar system is built purely as an “Identity Platform” that other applications, Government and private, can take advantage of. Within 4 years since launch, Aadhaar system has grown in capability and more than 600 million Aadhaar numbers have been issued so far using the system.

Entire technology architecture behind Aadhaar is based on principles of openness, linear scalability, strong security, and most importantly vendor neutrality. Aadhaar technology backbone is built using the following principles:

  • Open architecture – Building Aadhaar system with true openness meant use of open standards to ensure interoperability; platform approach with open APIs to allow the ecosystem to build on top of Aadhaar APIs; vendor neutrality across the application components using open and standard interfaces; and identity system designed to work with any device, any form factor, and any network.
  • Design for scale – Aadhaar system is expected issue more than 1.2 billion identities and will continue to grow as the resident population expands. Since every new enrollment requires biometric de-duplication across the entire system, every component needs to scale to very large volumes. This meant that system must handle hundreds of millions of transactions across billions of records doing hundreds of trillions of biometric matches every day! In addition all online services such as Aadhaar authentication, e-KYC service, and update service must work with high availability and sub-second performance. Network and data center load balancing and multi-location distributed architecture for horizontal scale are critical to such massive scalability.

All application components are built using open source components and open standards. Aadhaar software currently handles 1 million enrollments a day and at the peak doing about 600 trillion biometric matches a day. Current system already has about 4+ PB of raw data and continues grow as new enrollments come in. Online authentication service is built to handle 100 million authentications a day across both the data centers in an active-active fashion. Central to Aadhaar system is its biometric sub-system that performs de-duplication and authentication in an accurate way.

This talk covers the technology backbone that powers this massive project. Pramod Varma, who is the Chief Architect of this project and part of founding team shares his experience of building the system.

Photo of Pramod Varma

Pramod Varma


Dr. Pramod Varma is currently the Chief Architect and Technology Advisor to Unique Identification Authority of India. As Chief Architect of Aadhaar, World’s largest biometric identity system, he is responsible for entire system architecture and strategic technology decisions. He joined UIDAI in 2009 as part of the founding team and has been pivotal in ensuring an open, scalable, and secure architecture is built to meet the needs of Aadhaar project. Currently, in addition to working with UIDAI, he also sits on the advisory board of National Payment Corporation and several technology startups. He lives in Bangalore, India, regularly speaks at technology conferences and events, and participates in advisory groups of various national projects from time to time.

From 2005 to 2009 he was the Chief Technology Architect and Vice President of Research at Sterling Commerce, now part of IBM. He joined Sterling Commerce after acquisition of Yantra Corporation, a leading supply chain software company based in Boston, USA. He was one of the co-founders of Yantra Corporation and has been anchoring all technology and architecture strategies and has been key part in building Yantra’s retail supply chain application product suite. Over the past 20+ years, he has studied architectures spanning from mainframes to web and has worked extensively with most programming languages and databases. He has researched and taught various courses in Database Tuning, Distributed Computing, Internet Technologies, and Computer Architectures among others.

Pramod holds a Master’s and Ph.D. degree in Computer Science along with a second Master’s in Applied Mathematics. His main areas of interest are Internet scale distributed architectures and intelligent systems. He is passionate about technology, science, society, and teaching.