IBM and Philips Semiconductors are collaborating on a new generation of multifunction smart cards.
The joint effort is based on Philips? SmartXA processor, a 16bit chip that was specially developed for smart cards, and IBM plans to build a new operating system (OS) to run on the processor. It will also provide an implementation of JavaCard, a special version of Java for smart card applications, to run on top of the OS.
Elaine Palmer, IBM?s manager of secure systems and smart cards, said: ?On today?s cards, the applications are typically developed by the same provider.?
But she claimed that these smart cards could be loaded with new applications written in multiple languages, including assembler, C and Java, although they would not have access to each other?s data.
They will have 32Kbytes of memory available to run applications and data, however - four times the memory of a typical smart card.
But creating an open card on which new applications can be loaded, creates special security problems, which the two suppliers promise to address.
The added security will enable banks to issue customers with an open, multipurpose card, and customers can then choose to add extra applications ? for example, they could use the card as a means to enter their office building or make phone calls.
Palmer attested that finding a safe way to combine different functions on the same card could bring down the price of smart card use. However, she said it was too soon to say at what premium the added security and performance would come. Pricing for the new card has not been set.
An alpha version of the smart card will be ready by the end of the year, and the first pilot projects are expected to begin in late 2000.
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