a study by Synergistics Research Corp. indicates. The survey found that 30% of consumers earning $15,000 or more a year have heard of smart cards, up from 24% surveyed in 1993. Further, Synergistics discovered that 51% of heavy users of automated teller machines are aware of the computerized payment cards, compared with 27% in 1993. The survey also found 47% of affluent consumers, earning more than $75,000 annually, know of smart cards, versus 35% two years ago. The study queried 809 randomly selected consumers across the country and was completed this month. Anne Moore, president of Synergistics, based in Atlanta, called the awareness "pretty high for a system not available to the public." The study focused on card usage beyond stored value, the application most likely to be embraced soon, especially in Atlanta, where the Olympic games next summer will be the first major U.S. testing ground for the payment medium. Consumers were asked questions about possible advanced functions, such as storing medical records and income tax returns on the chip card. While only 31% cared to have income tax information stored on their cards, 68% wanted a complete medical history. When asked, 56% of consumers wanted insurance records stored on a card, and 47% wanted credit histories to speed up the credit application process. Even so, 26% of consumers surveyed thought storing large amounts of personal data was not at all useful - slightly more than the 25% who said it would be very useful. Tom Murphy, vice president of Global Concepts Inc., another Atlanta- based firm that has conducted research for the Smart Card Forum, an industry association, said the focus groups his company talked to did not think of smart cards as devices for managing taxes and overall records of finances. "They were thinking of the cards as a payment device along the lines of debit and credit - the payment cards they already know," Mr. Murphy said. He added that consumers more versed in technology, such as Internet and home banking users, "were more curious about a card that could be used to manage finances." Ms. Moore acknowledged that simple payment applications such as stored value cards would be first to market, but she said the survey focused on the advanced applications which would be "the next step." Mr. Murphy also brought up consumers' privacy concerns in regard to storing medical information on a bank-issued smart card. He said even pharmacists he interviewed were against combining financial and medical data. Ms. Moore of Synergistics said the medical information on a card would give consumers "peace of mind in case of an emergency." She said more information about health insurance, allergies, and blood type could be stored on a card with a chip than an identification bracelet." Mr. Murphy agreed with the Synergistics' finding that 75% of consumers want to consolidate their payment cards onto one smart card.
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