Credit card company Visa is launching a low-cost smartcard platform that combines features of traditional payment cards with smart-chip technology.
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The platform, initially to be used in the US, consists of three applications that can run on the same chip card: smart Visa payment, access and loyalty. It is based on Sun Microsystem's Java card technology and uses hardware security modules produced by nCipher, a UK-based developer of Internet security products.
Commenting on the $3 per card price tag, Ovum analyst Duncan Brown said, "The two main issues with smartcards are price and control. This new card is significant as it is half the price of others on the market and applications on the card cannot be moved or deleted."
Until now, most smartcard technology allowed the card user to change the applications on the card, and this has meant some financial institutions have been wary of using them, Brown explained.
A bank, for example, would not want customers deleting its information and replacing it with another bank's, having spent money on the card in the first place.
Smartcards are generally used for their multi-application facilities in the US as security is not as big a problem as it is in Europe.
This is because telecommunications are considerably cheaper in the US, so it is relatively inexpensive for companies to get online financial transactions authorised by the relevant credit card company.
In Europe, companies do not always check customer transactions because of the cost.
Visa has not made any formal statement regarding the UK market, but Visa International is looking at expanding the technology platform into markets outside the US.