Huntington Bancshares, Cybermark Inc., and Battelle have begun testing a multifunctional smart card system for closed-campus environments.
The cards, with embedded computer chips, were issued by Columbus, Ohio- based Huntington to 250 Battelle employees at the nonprofit research company's headquarters, also in Columbus.
Cybermark, a Washington-based subsidiary of the Student Loan Marketing Association, formed in 1994 to develop smart card programs for campuses, hired Battelle to bring its conceptual design to life.
The company, which Sally Mae has put up for sale, plans to market the technology to universities and other closed-campus environments, such as hospitals and businesses.
But Huntington believes the system "has the potential to be bigger than the closed environment," said Peter E. Geier, the bank's executive vice president of consumer services.
He said as smart cards proliferate, the card could be universally accepted.
A magnetic stripe on the back of the card allows transfer of monetary value from the cardholder's Huntington checking account to the chip through an automated teller machine or specially designed kiosks on the Battelle campus.
Most of the Battelle employees involved in the test opted to open an account with Huntington, but value can also be loaded onto the cards without an account, through cash-to-chip machines.
The cards are used for identification, area access, network access, and for purchases from vending machines across the Battelle campus.
The test, begun two weeks ago, will continue at Battelle through early next year. The companies expect to roll out to the rest of Battelle's 3,000 employees as well as to Huntington Bancshares employees by mid-1996, said Richard Darwin, Battelle's project manager for smart cards.
The Battelle test, with its multifunctional cards and checking-account access, resembles a program operating on two Michigan university campuses, implemented by First of America Bank Corp.
"We're going for the same kind of multi-functionality to improve the economics in the business case for smart cards," said Mr. Darwin.
As the system expands, Mr. Geier said the three will "invite other partners," including banks. He said the partners are still in the process of working out the long-term business arrangements.