Telstra, ERG and ANZ announce smartcard initiative

Australia's smartcard 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 an as yet unnamed company to set up and run a centre to handle transaction processing using Telstra and ERG's respective smartcard platforms.

Peter Fogarty, chief executive officer of ERG told Computerworld that, in the short term, the company will support both Telstra and ERG's separate platforms, but a single migration path will be agreed upon nine to 12 months down the track.

ERG' smartcard 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, according to Fogarty.

He 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 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 smartcards".

"[This] will help speed up commercialisation of the smartcard 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," he 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 companies to participate," Ted Pretty, group managing director of Telstra's convergent business, said.

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 smartcards for applications such as internet banking.

Telstra has been trialling smartcards since August 1998. Pilots are under way throughout Adelaide and with New South Wales Technical and Further Education Department.

Telstra was unavailable for further comment by publishing deadline.

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