Although Europeans have been using multi-application smart cards for some time, such use is still in its infancy in the United States, mainly due to the success of more cost-effective telecommunications technology. But smart card technology companies are betting that Americans are ready to embrace the added functionality of multi-app cards--and now the technology exists for banks do it more cost effectively.

Schlumberger, for example, has created technology for multi- application chip cards that's based on the platform-independent Java programming language, which is rapidly gaining acceptance with more than 150,000 programmers able to write to it. While today's smart card applications are not portable because they were developed in a code that is specific to each smart card company, banks can now add or change applications after the cards are issued with Java.

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