Toshiba and Fischer have formed a new joint venture to promote smart card technology.
The companies announced the formation last week of SmartDisk.
The first product from the venture is Smarty, a device which allows smart cards to be accessed by a standard PC 3.5in floppy drive.
The device has the same dimensions as a floppy disk but features a built-in smart card interface and a magnetic strip which can be read by the drive heads, allowing the card's contents to accessed directly by the PC.
Fischer has already started selling the product, but Toshiba's marketing muscle is likely to improve uptake of the technology. The device does away with the need for dedicated smart card readers, a hardware expense that currently inhibits the widespread adoption of cards.
A similar product, called FlashPath, works in the same way with Toshiba's SmartMedia flash memory cards, which are commonly used as the storage medium for many digital cameras. There are plans to add compatibility for other similar storage devices at a later date.
Most of the technology has been developed by Fischer, which holds a 60% stake in the new company, but SmartDisk CEO, Mike Battaglia, told PC Week that Toshiba has provided more than just a cash injection.
Several Japanese Toshiba employees, including at least one senior executive, have joined the 30-strong SmartDisk team providing "much needed expertise and guidance in mass production techniques", Battaglia claimed.
With the move, Toshiba aims to catch the current wave of interest in smart cards, by making them more accessible. Toshiba is also looking to increase market penetration of its SmartMedia card in a bid to expand the range of applications for the card.
Smarty is already available in the UK directly from Fischer at a cost of z39.99.
FlashPath is likely to become available during April or May and will be sold by Fujifilm for an estimated price of around z30.
Fischer: 01923 859119.
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