Activcard Inc., a specialist in authentication technology with an emphasis on smart cards, has announced two alliances that are likely to enhance its visibility as an enterprise security vendor.

The Fremont, Calif., company, which grew out of Activcard SA in France, said last week that it had obtained the "Entrust-Ready" designation from Entrust Technologies Inc. of Plano, Tex. That eases the linkage between Activcard identity devices -- typically smart cards holding data encryption keys and digital certificates -- and one of the most popular public key infrastructures, or PKIs.

A few weeks earlier, Activcard sealed a distribution deal with the big technology wholesaler Ingram Micro of Santa Ana, Calif. That makes Ingram a source for products sold under the Activcard Corporate Wallet umbrella, which can be integrated in this case with Novell Inc. networks.

Activcard claims that more than a million people are using its smart cards or other security tokens for access to on-line banking systems or corporate networks. Early this year it announced agreements to supply its technology to the smart card and Internet commerce efforts of Visa International and of MasterCard International's Mondex program. The Entrust and Ingram Micro tie-ins can open doors in other ways, but however Activcard gains acceptance, it is likely to be a favorable strike for smart cards.

The Entrust-Ready label now applies to Activcard Gold, a smart card system that companies can use to install an entry-level user authentication method while migrating over time toward a full-fledged public key infrastructure with digital credentials. Activcard sells the package as an "ATM-like process" with smart card readers. Entry of a personal identification number generates a digital signature for secure network access.

Activcard Inc. president Tom Arthur said that the Activcard-Entrust is capable of meeting "the requirements of some of the largest e-commerce projects in the world."

Besides Activcard Gold, Ingram Micro customers can get the ActivPack administrative software for Windows NT servers and Novell/Activcard One tokens.

Smita Deshpande, Novell's director of marketing for Internet solutions, said that "tight integration" with Novell's BorderManager system "allows network administrators to easily manage tokens and/or smart cards for strong authentication. This agreement with Ingram Micro draws attention to the importance of a strong authentication solution as an essential component of Internet security management.

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