Gemplus Corp. has formed a software division in hopes of accelerating development of smart card systems and programs.
The software group will focus on building applications that support its largest smart card market-mobile telecommunications-as well as the information technology infrastructure for consumer and commercial electronic commerce and corporate network access.
Gemplus said its software thrust will help speed product development and lower the cost of delivering new smart card applications.
The emergence of more complicated, multiple-application smart cards requires a new emphasis on software, the company added.
"Customers were starting to ask us for things beyond the card and reader," said Donna Jeker, vice president of the Gemplus Software group in Redwood City, Calif. "They want us to install their whole system."
Ms. Jeker said the entry of major information technology companies like Sun Microsystems Inc. and Microsoft Corp. into smart cards was an indication that chip cards are "moving away from their traditional roles and into new applications." Gemplus wanted to capitalize on this trend.
"Gemplus' goal is to provide smartware, not just smart cards, so that we can foster growth in this industry," said Philippe Maes, senior vice president of Gemplus Software in France.
"Open systems and standard APIs (application programming interfaces) spurred the evolution of the personal computer industry and will do the same for smart cards," he said.
Gemplus Software splits its operations between the smart card vendor's world headquarters in Gemenos, France, and the Americas base in California.
The French portion will primarily address the needs of Europe's telecommunications market, and the West Coast group will work with technology companies.
Combined, they have about 45 employees and plan to add 55 by yearend.
Gemplus software products include Gemmobile Remote Manager, a remote administration platform for the cards that accompany GSM (Global Systems for Mobile Communications) wireless phones, and the Gemsafe smart-card- based network security system.
Gemsafe encryption technology is a central component of International Business Machines Corp.'s Smart Card Security Kit. It is also related to an enterprise security product released last week by Security Dynamics Technologies Inc.
Gemplus plans to develop enabling software for new cellular phone applications, such as the ability to purchase airline or event tickets electronically. Additional information technology products are to be announced in the next few months, the company said.
"There is more to implementing smart card systems than just the cards," said analyst Duncan Brown of the London-based research organization Ovum Ltd. "Gemplus is responding to the shifting balance of power in the market from card manufacturers to solution providers."
Mr. Maes, one of Gemplus' co-founders 11 years ago, said its intent is to "speed development and lower the cost" of smart card applications and "make this software available as components of a larger smart-card-based solution."