The Smart Card Forum has formed two work groups that reinforce key aspects of its mission.

The forum already had nine work groups. Some are industry-specific, such as financial services, transportation, and health care. Others are on broad topics like technology and public policy.

The two new subjects-interoperability and multi-appli-cation-have been key words since the forum's start almost four years ago. They have gotten work group status because members believe they need continuous attention, said Jean McKenna, Smart Card Forum president and vice president of Visa International.

Interoperability refers to the compatibility of cards and components across systems or countries. Led by Mike Smith of Schlumberger Smart Cards and Systems, the work group will explore business and technical issues relating to the need for standards.

The forum, which has more than 200 members in multiple industries, said American Express, Mondex, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Schlumberger, the State of Texas, U S West, Verifone, and Visa were represented at the first interoperability meeting in June.

"This is not a competitive issue but a shared imperative," said American Express senior vice president David Boyles. "Infrastructure will not define who wins the game. The toughest competitors will be the best product and service providers. And we all have to work together for this industry to move forward."

"Four or five years ago there was limited understanding of the technology and a feeling that the chip card itself would solve problems," Ms. McKenna said. "The level of awareness has grown, people have gained experience with programs and pilots, and interoperability has become one of the keys to whether they are successful."

The multi-application work group is assigned to issues that arise when a chip card carries more than one service or product, such as branding, laws and regulations, ownership of data, security, and privacy. Kirk Brafford of Giesecke & Devrient America is chairman.

"People who have come through the learning curve see smart cards not as a product in itself," Ms. McKenna said, but rather as an information vehicle that enhances a single product, such as credit, or accommodates more than one.

"It is a maturing process," Ms. McKenna said. "People now see this as evolutionary rather than revolutionary."

The forum, which is based in McLean, Va., said the next interoperability meeting is set for Sept. 17-18 during the organization's annual meeting in Washington. The multi-application group is to meet again at a joint work group session Nov. 12-13 in San Diego.

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