Europay International, MasterCard's European affiliate, has introduced an operating package designed to ease the transition to smart cards for banks and merchants.

The package, called open terminal architecture, is a set of specifications for management of transaction terminals. It was demonstrated in June at Europay's membership meeting in Seville, Spain, along with the release of the association's multicurrency, chip-card-based electronic purse - called Clip.

Europay, based in Waterloo, Belgium, followed that up in late June with a meeting of 41 terminal and card vendors including Ingenico and Dassault of France, which were instrumental in developing Clip.

Open terminal architecture can be installed in existing terminals, allowing them to handle multiple card functions without requiring costly upgrades to accommodate the differences of various vendors and equipment.

"The obvious advantage is that it will save banks and retailers significant sums of money, especially considering the pace of change where the chip card is concerned," said Roger Swales, Europay's senior manager of card acceptance.

He said the specifications will also foster deployment of smart card applications at smaller stores that may have assumed the technology was too expensive.

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