ERG cracks big contracts at home and away

Australian smart card specialist ERG has been appointed approved supplier of smart card technology to the NSW Government and, through a joint venture, is involved in rolling out smart card technology for the British Post Office.

On the company's home turf the NSW Government has awarded ERG Card Systems approved supplier status for its Proton-based multi-application smart card technology. Under the terms of the contract all NSW government agencies will be able to engage ERG to develop and supply custom-built smart card solutions.

In the UK the Post Office and Prepayment Cards Limited (PCL) - a joint venture between ERG, Sema Group, Stagecoach Holdings, FirstGroup, and National Express Group - have agreed to collaborate to roll out smart card technology across the UK. The scheme will initially target the ticket and travel markets, with the Post Office providing a card issuing and card recharging service throughout the UK. The roll-out will start early in 2001 with the issuing of 750,000 cards in the Greater Manchester area.

ERG believes these deals are just the tip of the iceberg and that further successes are in the pipeline. "Joint venture partner Telstra is finalising negotiations with NSW TAFE to issue Proton-enabled cards to its 450,000 students in more than 130 campuses across NSW at the beginning of 2001," noted Richard Fleming, managing director of ERG Card Systems.

"This is in addition to significant ERG-implemented card schemes already operating at La Trobe University in Victoria and HBF in Western Australia, where a total of 475,000 cards have been issued."

Intellect adds muscle to Malaysian super corridorListed Australian smart card specialist Intellect Holdings and its strategic partner EPNCR Malaysia have won a contract to supply hardware and software for Malaysia's Government MultiPurpose Card (GMPC) project. It is intended that the project will use a smart card capable of serving a number of applications, including national ID, driver's licence, immigration information, health details, e-cash, debit card and ATM card, a spokesman said. "It is the first project in the world where a single smart card will be used in multiple environments," he added.

The GMPC project is part of the Malaysian Government's Multimedia Super Corridor plan. Intellect's role will be to provide a solution based on its hardware and software, as well as technology transfer to EPNCR.

"Once we have finished the initial trials early next year we see a lot of opportunities for both organisations, not only in Malaysia but in the Asia/Pacific region as well," added Khairun Mokthar, CEO of EPNCR.

Share market watchers should note that while Intellect's ASX code is IHG, it is not related to the company called IHG Limited, which has the ASX code IHY. The confusion should be avoided because IHG has also been making headlines.

IHG links into Microsoft's home networking planAustralian developer IHG has decided to become "actively involved" in Microsoft's plans to create a de facto home-control networking standard. The plans were unveiled this week in the US when Microsoft announced that the Home Plug and Play specification of the CEBus Industry Council (CIC) would be consolidated with Microsoft's Universal Plug and Play spec. IHG had previously supported the CIC standard.

The two standards define how home appliances interoperate and encompass computers and devices such as TV sets, hot water systems, and air conditioners.

"Now that companies such as Microsoft and General Electric are making serious commitments to this market we can expect home control to become one of the must-haves for home owners," explained Dennis Murray, CEO of IHG's US subsidiary SmartAmerica. "More and more home builders are already demanding the efficiency and convenience of home comfort, security, information, entertainment and communications systems."

Prophecy strikes gold with Midas touch

Listed Australian developer Prophecy International has entered a distribution deal with British company Midas IT Services, which acts as an ASP hosting appliances in IBM AS/400, RS/6000 and NT Server environments. Midas focuses on applications for the construction, property management and insurance industries and in the wake of the deal will begin offering the Prophecy Open software.

"Midas IT Services chose prophecy because its key ERP functionality has tremendous flexibility which makes it ideal to supply to small-to-medium enterprises under an ASP arrangement," a spokesman explained,.

Keycorp gains foothold in China

Australian e-commerce company Keycorp has won a contract worth about $A3 million to supply its GSM SIM technology to the Beijing Aerospace Sino-Technology Company (BASTT). Under the terms of the deal BASTT will provide Keycorp's technology to Chinese telecommunications companies and will take responsibility for all aspects of SIM production, including manufacture and printing of cards, and implanting the chips.

"This is the first licence sale of the SIMOS technology in China," noted Keycorp CEO Michael Thomes. "BASTT will use Keycorp technology to penetrate the emerging telephone GSM space in China, which is estimated to reach 40 million subscribers by 2000."

Sun scores bright hardware deals

Sun Microsystems has won an order for a supercomputing cluster at Adelaide University, and backed it up with a deal to supply of servers and storage to e-commerce group JDV.

The research deal involves the provision of clustered Enterprise 420 systems capable of 144 billion calculations per second at Adelaide University's National Computing Facility for Lattice Gauge Theory. A spokesman said Sun had made "a significant contribution" to the centre's establishment, which will be shared by similar researchers at the University of Melbourne and the University of New South Wales.

JDV, the e-commerce arm of Western Australian investment banker Hartley Poynton, has selected Sun hardware to drive its new online business ventures. The group has 1.5T-bytes of Sun storage products plus Enterprise 3500, 420, 450 and 250 servers. A spokesman said JDV would also work with Sun Professional Services on the design of its IT infrastructure.

Antitrust case breaks into a canter

Thwarted by Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's decision to send the Microsoft antitrust case to the Supreme Court rather than the more pro-Microsoft Court of Appeals, the giant software developer now appears to have dropped its go-slow tactics in favour of a full-steam-ahead approach. The company has agreed to file its appeal by July 26, a month earlier than necessary, which will mean that the Supreme Court will be able to decide by September whether it will hear the case or send it to the Court of Appeals first.

In the meantime, Microsoft won a victory against a class action suit in Nevada. IN the second suit of its type (The Insider section of The Rust Report, June 16) a judge ruled that Microsoft could not have charged consumers too much for its products since it did not deal directly with those consumers. Microsoft believes similar rulings will apply in some 130 similar suits it faces around the US.

A less comfortable reaction may be expected for Microsoft's announcement on Thursday of its strategy to harness the Internet for absolutely everything by way of its Microsoft.Net plan. Despite the close scrutiny of the courts as the company faces the antitrust suits, chairman Bill Gates explained that Microsoft will attempt to do on the Internet exactly what it did with the PC - provide a unified and ubiquitous platform for the deployment of new applications and services. "There's a very strong analogy here between what we're doing now and what we did with Windows," Gates explained.

In brief

While Dutch IT services company Pink Elephant has kept its light pretty well hidden under a bushel since opening in Australia, it has now come out with the announcement that it has won a remote support deal with the World Wildlife Fund Australia (the symbol of which is a black and white panda). The deal covers access to remote support services, first level technical support and project support.

Plessey Asia Pacific has won a contract worth $A2.3 million to supply multiplexing and digital microwave radio equipment to Argentinean electricity distributor Empressa Provincial de la Energia. The deal was won by Controles Communicaciones, with assistance from Austrade and the Export Finance Insurance Corporation.

The Australian Information Industry Association will hold its Software Showcase 2000 at Darling Harbour in Sydney on July 11. Information about the event is available from the AIIA's Web site at www.aiia.com.au/.

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