French-owned smart card makers were in the forefront of the technology extravaganza at the 1997 Cardtech/Securtech conference in Orlando last week.

Among several announcements, Schlumberger's Moorestown, N.J., smart card unit said its Cyberflex card is the first one to market that is based on the Java programming language.

Gemplus, which has its North American base in Montgomeryville, Pa., announced GemVision, a "family of multiple application cards" that will support credit, debit, and stored value on a single card.

Loyalty programs and other customized features could reside on the Gemplus cards. A 1,000-byte card will be available in June; larger-memory versions will come later in the year.

The cards will be certified for Visa credit, debit, and Visa Cash. Although the product is not Java-based-which is Visa's choice for its Partners Program-Brigitte Baumann, president of Gemplus for the United States and Canada, said the product is a "first step toward" technologies like Java.

Gemplus made the official smart card for conference attendees. Developed with the SmartCity consortium-Product Technologies Inc., 3G International, Debitek, Verifone, and Oki Advanced Products-the card contained contact and contactless chips used for access control, loyalty points, lunch tickets, electronic purse, and message pickup. Philips provided the contactless chip.

The first product in Schlumberger's Cyberflex series is in a tool kit for processing and loading Java applications on smart cards.

Schlumberger is also developing a Java-based open platform for the Visa Partner Program that will support multiple applications such as credit, debit, stored-value, and loyalty.

The company announced a marketing alliance with First Data Corp. to provide soup-to-nuts smart card systems to clients of the transaction processing giant. Schlumberger introduced a contactless chip for transportation uses and a combination card for contact and contactless functions.

American Microdevice Manufacturing Inc. was promoting an environmentally safe plastic known as ABS, which has no polyvinyl chloride compounds.

The three-year-old, San Jose, Calif., company supplies smart cards mainly for transportation and identification markets in Asia. John Springett, director of marketing, said he expects 1998 to be the year that American Microdevice takes off in the United States. It is close to gaining Visa Cash and Mondex certification.

"We're trying to convince the (bank card) associations to switch (from PVC) to ABS," he said. "It's cheaper, environmentally friendly, and more robust."

Veridicom Inc., a new company funded by Lucent Technologies, introduced a compact fingerprint sensor. Veridicom said unlike a host of other biometric gadgets, its product, based on Bell Laboratories technology, can read through grease and grime on fingertips.

The postage-stamp-size device is small enough to work on cellular phones, laptop computers, point of sale terminals, and automated teller machines.

New technologies often give rise to new and more devious criminal activities, in this case "fingerprint theft." A reporter asked, "Can the technology determine if the finger is still attached to the body?" but didn't get a straight answer.

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