Visa International's Asia-Pacific region announced the launch last Saturday of its Japanese smart card trial, part of the Smart Commerce Japan project. Described as one of the more ambitious in the world, the program is jointly managed by Visa and Toshiba Corp. and will involve an eventual 30,000 cardholders in Kobe.

The initial cards are the first in the world in which a Visa credit line coexists with the stored value service, Visa Cash, on a single card. Later this month cards are to be issued that can be used at conventional points of sale as well as in public Internet kiosks.

Visa and Smart Commerce Japan officials said the emphasis will be on combining and converging services and technologies such as credit with stored value, physical and on-line shopping, public key cryptography, and the SET, or Secure Electronic Transactions, Internet payment protocol. More than 1,000 terminals in Kobe will accept the cards. Visa member participants include Daiei OMC Inc., Nippon Shinpan Co., Visa Japan Association, and Million Card Service Co.

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