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Major smart card industry players support price breakthrough for open platform smart cards

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San Francisco/USA, 12 October 2000—A major program to offer Visa member banks a family of low-cost multiapplication smart cards has been launched by Visa International, together with IBM and Philips Semiconductors, supported by four major smart card manufacturers.

The program, called Visa Price Breakthrough, will enable Visa member banks to obtain open platform multiapplication smart cards, starting at less than three dollars each, from card manufacturers Giesecke & Devrient, Oberthur Card Systems, ORGA and Schlumberger. This price represents a considerable reduction on the average price of a microprocessor chip card of around six dollars.

The family of new smart cards is based on the JavaCard™ 2.1 and the Open Platform 2.0 specifications. The price of the initial card includes two applications, such as Visa credit/debit and Visa Cash, loaded to the read-only memory (ROM) with room for multiple applications in the erasable memory (EEPROM). This means issuers can decide which additional applications they may like to offer, such as loyalty or secure Internet access, depending upon market needs. These applications can be securely added or removed after the card has been issued.

Three additional card products will be made available, all at significantly reduced prices compared to today's market. The second card will provide public key encryption, whereas the third and fourth cards will see memory size increased from 48k ROM to 96k ROM and 16k EEPROM to 32k EEPROM. These cards will be available in public key and non-public key versions. Applications can be loaded after the cards have been issued or added to the ROM during chip production, thus freeing data memory (EEPROM) for other applications or service data.

The chips are manufactured by Philips Semiconductors and contain new technology developed by IBM. Giesecke & Devrient, Oberthur Card Systems, ORGA and Schlumberger have all agreed to manufacture smart cards offering the new low-cost chips.

Stephen Schapp, executive vice president, Global Product Platforms, Visa International, said: "This price breakthrough will significantly change the dynamics of the smart card marketplace. Cards will be much more affordable for issuers, which will help accelerate the global transition from simple magnetic stripe cards to dynamic multiapplication smart cards. This is a key part of Visa's goal to help build the infrastructure for u-Commerce—or universal commerce—the ability of consumers and businesses to conduct commerce anywhere, anytime over any type of device."

Matthias Kaiserswerth, director of IBM Research - Zurich, said: "This high-performance implementation of the Open Platform and JJavaCard™ specifications developed at IBM Research - Zurich illustrates our ongoing effort to support open standards. Visa's Price Breakthrough program based on this technology will contribute to a broad acceptance of multiapplication smart cards as viable pervasive security tokens in many areas of e-commerce."

Karsten Ottenberg, vice president and general manager of the Business Line Identification at Philips Semiconductors, said: "Cooperation with Visa as a world-leading organization within the financial industry again proves our commitment to the development of innovative solutions with the highest security and industry-leading cost and performance. Providing the technical foundation with our WE security controller family is in line with our mission to lead in technology for the future of the smart card market. We believe that this initiative will boost the acceptance of open platform solutions and will accelerate the adoption of innovative hard- and software solutions as mass market products."

The new smart cards will be demonstrated at Cartes 2000 in Paris (24-26 October) and will be available from early 2001.

An IBM JavaCard™/OpenPlatform fact sheet describes details of IBM's technology. More information on related IBM technologies is available on our JavaCard™ Web pages.

Press contact

Nicole Strachowski
Media Relations
IBM Research - Zurich
Tel +41 44 724 84 45

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