Expanding its smart card hardware options, Spyrus has acquired rights to a handheld card-reading device from an affiliate of Oki Electronics of Japan.

Spyrus took ownership of Value Checker Plus, one of several such devices that Oki Advanced Products had decided to divest. Spyrus also bought a more advanced version not yet on the market and some intellectual property, said spokesman Ken Mohr.

The computer manufacturer Bull and InfoRealite Group of France formed a joint venture in June to acquire another set of Value Checkers, including a key-size balance reader that has become familiar to users of Mondex and Visa Cash cards in various trials around the world.

The higher-end Value Checker Plus, a card-insertion sleeve with a small keypad and liquid crystal display, was designed for various types of transactions and can be hooked into a personal computer for on-line commerce.

Spyrus sees the Value Checker fitting into its hardware-based data security offerings.

The San Jose, Calif., company has produced 350,000 security tokens to the U.S. government's Fortezza standard, and offers lower-cost chip card versions called Rosetta. Rosetta cards and Value Checker Plus can promote the "trusted digital environments" corporations are building around intranet and extranet technology, said Spyrus chief executive officer Sue Pontius.

The Oki deal could also reinforce Spyrus' ties to the bank card industry. Through a company it acquired, Terisa Systems, it was instrumental in developing the SET payment protocol. Value Checker Plus can help make SET digital certificates portable. Personal identification numbers would be more secure by keeping them within the readers rather than on PCs.

Shay Roberts, Visa International product manager for stored value products, said testing of Value Checker Plus indicates it "provides the necessary security, functionality, and flexibility" for Visa Cash purchases on the Internet.

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