Informix will launch the first fruits of its Imaginecard smart card alliance with Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Gemplus on 10 March in Los Angeles.
It will also announce at the same time that it has set up a limited, but virtual company to house technical patents, intellectual property and the Imaginecard trademark and also to ringfence any potential liabilities from the respective partners.
The firm, to be called Imaginecard Inc, is due to be incorporated next month, and will be staffed by 100 permanent, dedicated employees from each of the participating organisations.
They will remain on their respective employers payrolls and undertake such functions as marketing and research and development. The company will be headed by a board of directors, comprising Larent Gampel from Informix, Doug McGowan from HP, and Michel Roux from Gemplus.
Gampel, director of Informix?s Imaginecard Alliance, said: ?All the components are now ready. We?re just integrating them all to become the finished product and then they?ll go on HP?s price-list from 1 April, although customers will be able to place orders from the launch date. We?ll all take orders, but we?ll pass them on to HP?s integration centres.?
The Imaginecard package will be available about two months after launch, but Informix and Gemplus will not sell the products themselves. They are currently talking to systems integrators and hope to have signed up several by March.
The first products to be released will be aimed at the consumer Internet home banking and home shopping markets, and at the corporate user.
The corporate offering comprises three elements. The client package, which runs on Windows 3.x and NT, includes smart card drivers, Web plug-ins and client software.
The server element consists of server middleware, a cryptographic engine, authentication and communications software and application programming interfaces.
Two servers are necessary, one to act as a Web server and the other as an administration server. The former can be based on any hardware and run any operating system and database, but the latter must be a trusted HP/UX server running a dedicated Informix database.
Potential uses include security passes for accessing buildings or logging onto the corporate network, and providing a means of digitally signing documents for security reasons.
The consumer offering will be based on a PC running Windows 95 and either a Netscape or Microsoft Explorer browser. It will also include a smart card reader, while the smartcard itself holds user identification data to enable authenticated transactions to take place. It also incorporates an RSA cryptographic engine.
Suppliers such as banks or supermarkets wanting to provide consumer services need to buy a developers' kit.
The next products to come out of the Imaginecard stable will be development tools for new clients such as network computers. They will also support object/relational databases and the Secure Electronic Transaction protocol, which forms the basis of the GSM chip card for cellular telephones.
Other smartcards on the horizon include further corporate offerings with micro-payment capabilities to enable users to store money on their cards or have money deducted from their wages if they purchase items at work.
Before the end of next year, Laurent also visualises having a Java-based card with a micro Informix database kernel on it, so that data and services can be dynamically downloaded online. This would enable organisations to change privileges easily and efficiently.
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