Smart card industry gets boost from Telstra, ERG and ANZ

Australia's smart card industry is set to explode with the introduction of a joint venture company to develop open standards for the technology.

Telstra, ERG and the ANZ Bank yesterday announced plans to establish a smart card operating joint venture company.

The unnamed company will establish and run a centre to handle transaction processing using smart card platforms from Telstra and ERG.

Peter Fogarty, ERG CEO, told Computerworld that in the short term the company will support both Telstra and ERG's separate platforms, but will agree on a single migration path nine to 12 months down the track.

ERG' smart card application is based on Proton and Telstra's application is based on Chipper technology -- two technologies which compete side by side in the Netherlands market, Fogarty said.

Fogarty said ERG has already signed a number of Proton licences in the Asia-Pacific region and has more negotiations under way.

Paul Edwards, head of media relations at the ANZ Bank, said that while specific plans for the joint venture have not been detailed yet, the goal of the company will be to "develop open standards for multi-application smart cards".

"[This] will help speed up commercialisation of the smart card industry," he said.

Fogarty said further details for the project will be determined in the coming months, but the main goal for the venture is to "try and avoid duplication of technology".

"Basically this year we're putting everything in place . . . next year we're moving forward with common standards for the operating system and applications," Fogarty said.

Telstra, ERG and ANZ will each contribute capital funds and resources to the project, but a key aspect of the agreement is that shareholders, particularly other banks, are encouraged to participate.

"As new organisations join in, shareholding will be diluted accordingly. Telstra, ERG and ANZ are confident that the group would eventually expand and negotiations are in train with other key corporates to participate," said Ted Pretty, group managing director Telstra's convergent business.

According to Fogarty, some negotiations are already under way with other banks, which will provide a large customer base with a strong interest in using smart cards for applications such as internet banking.

Telstra has been trialling smart cards since August 1998. Pilots are under way throughout Adelaide and with New South Wales TAFE.

Telstra was unavailable for further comment before press time.

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