Visa U.S.A. Inc. said Wednesday that it has introduced a formal process by which technology providers can get their products approved for use under Visa's smart card program.

The "smart Visa Ready" program is a set of standards that the association says is meant to ensure consistency in smart card product offerings so that financial institutions, merchants, and consumers can easily identify and use compatible products that meet uniform performance standards.

Patrick Gauthier, senior vice president of smart card applications and market development at Visa U.S.A., said that "in order for smart cards to become viable in the United States there is a need to lay the foundation in which all smart card-related product standards are rooted."

In the program, Visa is introducing the smart Visa Ready mark, a Visa corporate identifier that denotes smart card components, devices, and services that have met its criteria.

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