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Java card spec brewed

Sun says its Java Card 2.0 is a blueprint for building applications to run on smart cards.

Sun Microsystems' JavaSoft unit will announce tomorrow that it has posted a final version of its Java Card 2.0 specification.

A draft version has been posted on JavaSoft's Web site for public comment for several weeks, the company said.

"This API [application programming interface] has received a lot of support from the smart-card industry," said Patrice Peyret, director of the smart-card group at JavaSoft. Smart-card companies even coordinated their input on the API, rather than responding individually, he added.

Sun calls Java Card 2.0 a blueprint for building applications to run on smart cards. It enables any card manufacturer to build smart cards that can interoperate not only with each other, but also with existing cards and card-reading terminals.

Sun said between 10 and 15 companies, which represent 90 percent of smart cards manufactured in the world, have licensed JavaCard, although not all have been announced. Companies that have endorsed Java Card 2.0 include Bull, Citicorp, First Union, Gemplus, Giesecke & Devrient, Hitachi, Motorola, Schlumberger, Toshiba, VeriFone, and Visa.

Java Card 2.0 provides software developers working on existing ISO standards for smart cards with a way to switch to Java Card, Peyret said.

"Major card issuers want a migration path from existing cards to new ones," Peyret said. "We have incorporated in the API services that allow existing or de facto standards."

The new API also lets different applets on the smart card share data if desired, although the default is to keep data securely segregated. A company whose customers use a smart vendor both for payment and for a frequent-user loyalty program might want to share data about payments so the loyalty application could be credited.

Peyret expects card issuers in different industry segments to augment the Java Card API with special services of their own. Because smart cards have limited processing power and memory, not all the services were built into the API.

Visa is the first organization to do that, creating additional classes and tools so that banks can do credit, debit, electronic cash, and loyalty programs on a single card. Visa's extension follows the EMV standard published last year by Europay, MasterCard, and Visa.

JavaSoft expects other companies at the Cartes '97 trade show, now underway in Paris, to announce applications based on the updated spec.