Cybermark has struck a multimillion-dollar deal with Florida State University to manage and promote its campus smart card system.
Though Cybermark, the joint venture of Huntington Bancshares, Sallie Mae, and Battelle - has been hawking its own smart card system, which is installed on the campus of Ohio Dominican College in Columbus, the deal gives it access to one of the most advanced multifunctioning smart card programs in the marketplace.
The deal also gives Cybermark, which targets the campus market, access to 40,000 university students carrying plastic cards with imbedded computer chips. Cybermark is to manage the program and retain the float on unspent funds.
James Graham, Cybermark's chairman and chief executive officer, said its system "will be integrated into the Smart City product" developed by the Tallahassee university.
However, Dan Cunningham, a consultant at Phoenix Planning and Evaluation in Rockville, Md., speculated that the Ohio company would "abandon the system it cost (Sallie Mae) $15 million to $20 million to develop" in favor of Smart City.
In 1992, Sallie Mae, the Student Loan Marketing Association, recruited Battelle, a technology specialist, to develop a smart card system for campus identification cards as an adjunct to its core business.
After three years of development and heavy investment, Battelle opted to sell the technology to Huntington Bancshares in April 1996, while remaining a shareholder. Battelle earned its one-third of the company through continuing technology enhancements.
Smart City, the brainchild of Florida State's Card Application Technology Center, which is run by William Norwood, was developed by several technology partners, including Product Technology Inc., Debitek Inc., Gemplus, Verifone Inc., and others.
Mr. Norwood shepherded the process that converted the university's magnetic stripe identification card to smart card technology. Students use the cards, with chip and magnetic stripe, to gain access to buildings and bank accounts, make purchases, and securely find campus records on the Internet.
In essence, Cybermark has hired Mr. Norwood, his staff of 11, and all the vendors responsible for developing Smart City. Bringing this group under the Cybermark umbrella frees it to pursue business opportunities that the university could not, such as licensing the system to other campuses.
Verifone will license the Smart City platform to stadiums. American Express Co. has installed the technology on the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Yorktown for a cashless vending machine system.
Peter Quadagno, a West Chester, Pa.-based consultant who worked on the project, said Mr. Norwood understands a university's needs and could increase Cybermark's potential for campus smart card business.
The university will get a cash payment, plus royalties, Mr. Graham said, but he did not disclose the initial sum.
Richard Darwin, manager of the digital transaction systems group for Battelle, defended Cybermark's "highly complex system," which is still in development. There "is no question" of its viability, he said. "The big challenge will be trying to integrate the Florida system into what's going on with the Cybermark production system."