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Next Generation of Smart Cards Coming

Although smart cards didn't arrive in our daily lives as quickly as futurists predicted decades ago, they are slowly making their way into the United States via applications such as employee identification cards. But what happened to the card that those futurists said would hold all our personal identification, financial account data, health care information, but could still be used to purchase a candy bar? Those individual functions are being used in many places in Europe. And they may soon catch on here because the next generation of smart cards is about to hit the markets.

One of the problems has been that the cards themselves had 8- or 16-bit computer chips. That's not enough for multiple applications or the kind of sophisticated encryption that can ensure security. However, a generation of 32-bit smart card technology has hit the market and is now being offered to the companies that could manufacturer the smart cards.

MIPS Technologies, Inc. recently introduced this higher level of technology to the marketplace at a price level that may be affordable enough for smart card manufacturers to apply to creation of everyday use and multiple use cards. The new cards can store hundreds of times more information than a magnetic strip card, and they can be programmed just as a computer is programmed to perform multiple applications on various devices including personal computers and mobile computing devices.

The variety of application is mind-boggling. MIPS Technologies says that means we may soon see these cards being used for accessing medical information when visiting a doctor's office, opening a bank account, conducting online transactions, making point of sale purchases, communicating, and interacting with home Internet devices. It should be only a matter of time, then, when these cards can also be used in snack machines for those candy bars.

Copyright © 2001 Bankers' Hotline. Originally appeared in Bankers' Hotline, Vol. 11, No. 5, 5/01

First published on 05/01/2001

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