An industry consortium has been set up to develop standards for smart card technology and help corporate users gain secure, easy access to public high-speed wireless internet networks.
The Wlan Smart Card Consortium aims to establish a set of specifications to allow business people to use smart cards to access public Wireless Lan hotspots around the world and pay for the service.
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The consortium is being launched by 19 companies and institutions including Alcatel, Dai Nippon Printing, Infineon Technologies and Texas Instruments.
The consortium intends to support existing standards but will also define specifications to allow travelling business people and others to use smart card technology when roaming Wlan hotspots worldwide. They would be able to pay for this service and other personalised offerings in an easy, secure way.
The group will develop specifications of its own only in those cases where no existing specification exists, according to the website, wlansmartcard.org.
"The consortium is a very good idea," said Philip Low, managing director of BroadGroup, a London consultancy specialising in broadband services.
"Ubiquity and security are the big challenges facing the Wlan sector. Corporate users want ubiquitous coverage and secure network service. Universal smart card technology could help provide this."
But Low warned that some governments, such as the UK, are concerned about privacy protection and smart cards.
"There is some concern about personal data being stored on cards," he said. "The issue is still the focus of much debate."