Motorola sets smart card targets

Motorola, the first U.S. firm to make a big commitment to smart cards, will initially target colleges and public transit systems.

Motorola's(MOT) new smart card unit, formed in March, today said its first products will be targeted at university campuses and public transit systems.

At the Cartes '97 trade show in Paris, Motorola's Smartcard Systems Business (SSB) also announced a marketing alliance with ERG Limited, a transit fare collection and smart card systems provider, in pursuit of worldwide opportunities for transit and multi-application smart card systems.

Smart cards, also known as chip cards, are the same size as credit cards but have a computer chip embedded. Used for automated banking and e-commerce, security, and automated highway toll payments, among other things, they are quite popular in Europe and parts of Asia, but to date haven't really caught on in the United States.

"This is the first time we are seeing a major U.S. company making such a commitment [to smart cards]," said Patrice Peyret, director of the smart card group at Sun Microsystems'JavaSoft unit.

SSB unveiled its M-Smart series of contacted/"contactless" smart cards and two families of terminals, due to ship next year. Public transit and college campuses are the unit's initial target, but Motorola expects to extend its product line into identification, health care, and banking.

The new M-Smart Combination Card, designed to work with any industry-standard terminal, can be inserted in a smart card reader or read without contact by a beacon.

M-Smart card readers for transit include terminals for vehicles and gates. Readers for campus uses include a PC reader and an access control terminal. The M-Smart point of sale and vending machine terminals can be used in both areas.

In addition to smart cards and readers, Motorola's SSB unit offers systems integration and network infrastructure for smart card systems.

Yesterday, a separate unit of Motorola that makes computer chips announced plans to develop with Japan's Matsushita Electronics a new kind of chip that would be capable of more complex smart card applications. The advanced chip would debut in 1999.

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