The Cardtech/Securtech conference in Atlanta this week beckons bankers and others seeking to catch the next wave in electronic money.
Today they get to hear the keynote speaker, futurist author Alvin Toffler, discuss the evolution of money, technology, and related topics. Then they will be off to three days of seminars on subjects ranging from stored-value cards to biometric security, and from government-sponsored benefits transfer systems to various forms of electronic commerce.
Organizers of Cardtech/Securtech, an international event that outgrew its previous homes in the Washington area, expect a record 6,000 visitors to pass through the exhibit space.
One exhibitor, Comparator Systems Corp., brought the conference unexpected publicity last week. With a product announcement expected at the show, shares in Comparator's penny stock became the most actively traded in the history of the Nasdaq market.
A rumor linking the company's fingerprint security technology to MasterCard International was denied, trading was halted, and the National Association of Securities Dealers launched an inquiry.
There were suggestions that the Comparator trading frenzy resulted from confusion with another biometric technology firm, Identicator Corp., whose system is featured in a futuristic MasterCard commercial that refers to a "single-digit PIN code," meaning a fingerprint. A MasterCard spokeswoman said the fingerprint identification technology is "something we're looking at as a potential advanced security solution."
Visa U.S.A. will demonstrate the VisaCash system that First Union Corp., NationsBank Corp., and Wachovia Corp. will test this summer in and around Olympic venues in Atlanta.
Sensormatic Electronics, a security system provider, will demonstrate its hand-geometry reader, which will be used to verify the identity of athletes entering the Olympic Village.
Plenty of product launches are on tap. Siemens, the German technology company, is to announce the Combi Card chip, which combines contact and contactless functions. The same card could be used, for example, in both a conventional financial terminal and in a transit turnstile which requires only that the card be passed in close proximity.
The Bull Group of France will make a similar announcement with Racom Systems Inc., a U.S.-based specialist in contactless technology.
Verifone Inc. plans to introduce its SC family of terminals, "addressing the full range of payment processing requirements using smart card technology," said Michael J. Shade, vice president of chip card programs at the Redwood City, Calif., transaction automation company.
Ben Miller of Cardtech/Securtech in Rockville, Md., said at least 1,430 people will attend the seminars, 23% more than last year, while 342 exhibitors will set up booths, up from 195.