Intelidata Technologies Corp. and three allies unveiled a system Tuesday intended to give smart cards a jump-start.
The system is built around a device developed by Fischer International Systems Corp. that enables personal computers to read data on the cards' computer chips.
Fischer has marketed the device, which fits into a computer diskette drive, under the name Smarty, but in Intelidata's configuration it is known as MoneyClip.
Acting as system integrator, Intelidata also is incorporating security technology from V-One Corp. And demonstrating how MoneyClip works at a press conference in New York was Daniel Schley, chairman and chief executive officer of Home Financial Network Inc., provider of the Home ATM line of banking and bill-paying software.
"As soon as I saw this I knew it was the best mousetrap," Mr. Schley said of MoneyClip.
Led by Intelidata president John Backus and Joseph Smith, executive vice president of the Herndon, Va., company's electronic commerce division, leaders of the participating companies stressed MoneyClip's ability to solve the "chicken and egg" dilemma bedeviling smart card and home banking marketers.
In one fell swoop, they said, MoneyClip makes 200 million PCs compatible with smart cards.
The cards can then be used as security tokens and cash substitutes for purchases over the Internet and in the physical world.
Mr. Backus said downloading cash onto a chip card-the "ATM in the home"- is technologists' "holy grail." But achieving it requires transitional steps, beginning with security features that get people comfortable with interactive financial services. On-line purchases and money transfers would follow.
Like Mr. Schley and Home Financial Network, Intelidata makes its pitch directly to the banking community: "This is a way to start to employ smart card technology," Mr. Smith said. "Even more important to banks, it puts them in the center of the game."
MoneyClip, a modified 3.5-inch diskette, has a list price of $59.95 that will fall below $50 in large quantities, Mr. Backus said.
One fly in the ointment would be mass deployment of smart card readers on PCs, which is under active discussion in the computer and chip industries and would obviate the need for Fischer's innovation. "We don't see that happening very swiftly," said Fischer International president Michael Battaglia.
"We're looking well past 2000 for when (smart card readers) would be a low-cost or no-cost add-on," Mr. Backus said.