Speaking at Cards Asia 2002, which was held in Singapore last week, Alan Johnson, technical director of the Multos Consortium, said the move towards multi-application smartcards has been made possible with the decoupling of hardware from the operating system, and applications from the suppliers.
In this scenario, the application providers may not be the card issuers. According to Johnson, the separation of roles enables application providers to focus on the requirements of the application rather than on the specific technology to be delivered to the hands of the end users. For example, he said, the service provider may not have to provide a card management system, which could be handled by the issuer.
However, for multi-application smartcards to take off, it is important that the card issuer gives the application provider a lower cost of entry and allows them to "rent space" on the card, said Johnson.
He gave the example of Hong Kong, where the government is issuing a biometrics-based identity card for identification and immigration purposes, with plans in the pipeline to rent space to other application providers.
According to David Chan, head of chip products at Visa Asia Pacific, the concept of renting out space on multi-application cards is not entirely new. "One of the merits of multi-application cards is that they allow any number of applications to be stored, limited only by memory space and control."
There are already Visa members in Asia Pacific, Europe and the US issuing smart cards with multi-applications that belong to more than one party.