popular outlets for smart cards. Now the card producer Schlumberger is putting the two together.
Schlumberger, which traces its smart card business back to the beginnings of the phenomenon in France's telephone network in the 1970s, has added a wireless capability to its Access family of pay phones.
Access GSM -- the letters stand for Global System for Mobile communications, the prevalent wireless standard in Europe -- is said to be especially suitable for emerging markets with inadequate wireline infrastructures, as well as for mass-transit systems or temporary installations at public events.
"Half the world's population have never made a phone call, making the rural pay-phone market an extremely attractive investment opportunity for large- and small-scale (telecommunications) operators," said Jim Wingo vice president of phone products, Schlumberger Test and Transactions.
He said the easy installation of GSM pay phones offers a "fast revenue ramp-up for rural service providers and for operators in rapidly growing urban areas."
The wireless pay-phone system was one of several product introductions last month by the French-American smart card group at Schlumberger. Many were timed for the Telecom '99 exposition in Geneva, where a host of examples of computer-communications convergence were on display. Schlumberger's enhancements of the mundane extended to parking meters and gambling casinos.
Schlumberger won a competitive bid to supply multispace parking systems for New York City, incorporating wireless communications and in some cases solar power for centralized administration, pricing adjustments, and maintenance and tampering alerts. By the time installations are completed this year, Schlumberger said, 430 of its terminals will be controlling 20,000 parking spaces.
The system works with coins or prepaid cards. The wireless technology plus "rugged, high-security terminals and fast, quality support enable less downtime and lower maintenance hours to significantly decrease operational costs," said George Levey, vice president for municipalities at Schlumberger Smart Cards and Terminals in San Jose, Calif.
Schlumberger said its Payflex card technology is contributing to what is billed as "the first successful coinless casino in the world," operated by Sun International (South Africa) Ltd. The gaming chain said it is considering adoption of smart cards as a "differentiator" at affiliated properties elsewhere, including the United States.
Since the introduction in January, "customer response has been enthusiastic" and the "business case (is) excellent," said David Webster, data base marketing manager for Sun International. "We are making savings on the costs of handling, counting, and insuring coins, and all the evidence points to customers' playing more games."
The stored value cards, an outgrowth of Sun's Most Valued Guest loyalty program, also serve as electronic purses for drinks and meals. Winnings can be converted into checks or transferred into a bank account.
Schlumberger's latest major addition to the Access phone line, Access Combo, handles smart cards, magnetic stripe cards, and coins -- and even refunds change, which is a requirement in some countries. Though chip card technology is meant to eliminate theft risks and a substantial maintenance burden, the vendor had to accommodate the coin option by developing a vault separate from the main telephone housing.
"By offering the complete portfolio of available payment technologies," Mr. Wingo said, "Access Combo allows operators to increase per-site revenue, particularly in high-visibility sites such as hotels and stations where there will always be occasional users who need to make a call while on the move."
A high-end Access product, Access-IT, for information technology, is designed for value-added commerce and payment services. Described as an "info station," it has a screen of 240 by 128 pixels that can display advertising, weather forecasts, and street maps, and can let cardholders check and reload their e-purses.
There is also an option for a "wireless local loop" connection, as with Access GSM.
Elsewhere in the GSM market, Schlumberger said it is supplying the subscriber identity module, or SIM, technology to the Taiwanese mobile phone company FarEasTone. Because the SIMs are chip cards, GSM phones are ready-made for secure banking and other information services, and Schlumberger's product, Cyberflex Simera 32, is Java-programmed with 32 kilobytes of memory.
Schlumberger said "this gives FarEasTone the capacity to provide two suites of information-on-demand services, one business-oriented, the other leisure -- plus mobile banking." Customers of Far Eastern International Bank will be able to check account balances, transfer funds, and pay selected bills when the service goes live, expected by yearend.
As permitted by the Java language from Sun Microsystems Inc., "the ability to download software for future upgrades opens the door to personalization."
"Open Java SIMs are the key to future generations of mobile services," said Claus Hansen, senior GSM cards marketing manager for Schlumberger in Asia. "The Asia-Pacific mobile phone industry leads the world in adopting this new technology, and FarEasTone is the first to bring the benefits of open Java to mobile subscribers and businesses in Taiwan."
In the data security area, Schlumberger announced KeyOps Pro, a new generation of a management system for prepaid cards.
"Smart cards offer outstanding levels of security, but security is a continually moving target and today's high volumes and multi-issuer schemes are making effective security management far more complex," said Olivier Piou, vice president of smart cards. "We have designed KeyOps Pro to be able to provide turnkey solutions for simple to sophisticated applications and to deliver 100% control of the card-life-cycle security chain."
Among the controlled elements are the secret encryption keys stored in the cards that verify their validity and scramble communications between the card and terminal to assure security.
During Telecom '99, the Canadian data encryption vendor Certicom Corp. said Schlumberger had signed a license agreement to use its elliptic curve cryptography in GSM mobile applications. The cryptographic method, known as ECC, requires shorter keys than do other approaches and therefore fits well into wireless phones, smart cards, and other constrained computing environments.
"Certicom's ECC is the obvious solution for easy-to-integrate, high-performance security," Mr. Piou said. "Its technology is well recognized for providing on-line security for subscribers making on-line transactions via mobile devices."