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Gemplus boosts smart cards

French smart card giant Gemplus slashes prices on chips to power smart card readers.

In a big boost to the slow-moving smart card initiative, French manufacturer Gemplus says it will license chips for smart-card readers to high-volume manufacturers of keyboards, PCs, phones, vending machines, and personal digital assistants, for less than $10 per device.

The move by Gemplus, the world's largest chip-card maker, could speed the day when smart-card readers become commonplace, a step deemed critical for wide adoption of smart cards for both consumer and business uses.

Smart cards--plastic cards the size of credit cards that contain computer chips?can be used for electronic cash, personal data, or security features in a variety of business and consumer applications.

The move by Gemplus, labeled the GemCore initiative, would make licenses available for the operating system, interface chips, and engineering support for Gemplus? smart-card reader.

Manufacturers including VeriFone have suggested smart-card readers could cost as little as $50 in volume, but Gemplus' offer could drive prices even lower.

Gemplus hopes the package will provide a cheap, easy way for manufacturers to embed smart-card readers into various hardware devices.

The GemCore reader will support emerging standards for how PCs interact with smart cards, such as the PC/SC Workgroup, secure Internet credit-card transactions, such as Secure Electronic Transactions or SET, and a European initiative for a smart-card version of SET, called EMV-SET.

Gemplus Group, a French company with 1996 revenues of $440 million, is the world?s leading producer of smart cards. It expect that by year's end, it will be able to produce 900 million cards.