SAN FRANCISCO The Smart Card Industry Association (SCIA) and the Smart Card Forum have joined forces to proliferate smart card technology in North America.
The groups have committed $500,000 in initial funding to the Smart Card Security Initiative, an effort that will promote the role of smart cards in making e-business enterprise systems and consumer Internet applications secure.
"This alliance shows that we want to get away from vendor-to-vendor competition," said Paul Beverly, chairman of SCIA and vice president at Schlumberger Ltd. "I mean, here I am sitting next to my archrival from Gemplus.
"We want to make sure everyone understands that smart cards are synonymous with security in the networked world," Beverly added.
The groups, which will track smart card adoption in the United States, claim that there are over 1.7 billion smart card users worldwide, concentrated mostly in Europe.
R. Allen Gilstrap, vice president at American Express Services Europe Ltd., said, "Some of the commonly attributed reasons why smart cards took off outside of the U.S. is that it took off in places where centralized telecoms and banks were found. But here in the U.S., there are 1,400 different banks and telecom companies with many different strategic directions."
"The other issue centers around GSM," said Beverly. "In the U.S., historically we've had competing mobile telephony standards. Until recently, GSM was the only telephony technology used in smart cards, but that's changed with TDMA and CDMA."
The groups will address technical issues that stand in the way of smart card adoption for digital security and will educate user organizations and start a lobbying effort to insure that smart card reader/writers become standard equipment on new PCs, workstations and network devices.
Several U.S. government agencies, including the Department of Defense, have indicated that they will soon require smart card readers to be included on all newly acquired PCs.
While smart card adoption has been slow in the United States, the question of small profit margins for smart card manufacturers should be dispelled, Beverly said. "Saying companies who manufacture smart cards won't make money is like saying Intel won't make profits since the semiconductor is such an old, commodity item."
Gilles Lisimaque, chief technology officer and cofounder of Gemplus, echoed that sentiment. "We feel like we have a pretty strong business case going since our 'killer application' is helping to keep network insecurity from being an application killer."