Two Hong Kong banks-Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp. and its affiliate, Hang Seng Bank Ltd.- have said all their checking and savings account customers are eligible for Mondex cards.
The announcement makes those banks, part of the London-based HSBC Group that has been a major supporter of the Mondex program, the first to do a full-scale rollout of the smart card system.
The Hong Kong effort began as a pilot in October 1996 in two shopping centers. It grew to 40,000 cards in circulation and 5,000 participating merchants.
Greg Devlin, managing director of Mondex Asia, said he expects the number of cards to grow to "hundreds of thousands" and said both banks plan to combine the Mondex electronic cash capability with automated teller machine cards.
New cards will incorporate the Hitachi H8/3109 semiconductor chip, which Mondex said is the first to use public key cryptography in such a multi- currency payment product.
Mondex Asia, a joint venture of Hongkong Bank and MasterCard International, plans to introduce Mondex in 13 countries and territories. It is conducting a trial with Bank of the Philippine Islands and expects shortly to announce the participation of banks in Indonesia, Taiwan, and other banks in Hong Kong.
In a separate development, Mondex International said it is making available a software tool kit for development of applications on the Multos operating system.
Multos enables the loading on cards of multiple applications, such as stored-value cash, credit and debit functions, shopper loyalty, health care, and potentially other services.