A military system with private-sector implications won the 1995 Outstanding Smart Card Application Award last week at the Cardtech/Securtech conference in Washington.

The U.S. Department of Defense won the prize for its Multi-Technology Automated Reader Card. Currently under evaluation in Hawaii and put to a recent test with an infantry division in Haiti, it combines the identification role of dogtags with other record keeping to track personnel locations and movements.

Because it uses the capacity of computer chips to perform many tasks - from medical record keeping to library and food services - the card is seen as a pioneer of the multiapplication systems that credit card and other financial organizations are exploring.

Although Marc serves the military, "it could be a model for the private sector," said Ben Miller, publisher of Personal Identification News, when presenting the award, which is sponsored by the Smart Card Industry Association.

Past winners have included the French bank card industry, which completed its conversion to chip cards more than two years ago; the German health care system; and an electronic benefits transfer program in Wyoming.

In addition to its chip, the military card has an embossed identification number, bar code, magnetic stripe, and a photo. Thus it can be recognized at all points of presentment, regardless of technology level.

As technology advances, however, more applications will go on the chip, taking advantage of its greater durability and security.

"When you have guys digging trenches," durability plays an important role, said Thomas L. Gregg, president of 3-G International Inc., the software company that manages the system for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the secretary of defense.

The cards have been issued to 18,000 Army personnel in Hawaii. By this summer 8,000 Marines will have them. Eventually the Air Force, Navy, all military family members, retirees, the National Guard, and reserves could receive cards, said Mr. Gregg.

They could eventually be in the hands of 12 million personnel worldwide, he added.

Manufactured by DataCard Corp. and Gemplus, the cards cost about $6 each, but "the benefits of having multiapplications far outweigh the costs," Mr. Gregg said. "All the departments share the expense."

He said the program could pay for itself within 1#1/2 years of a worldwide rollout by eliminating multiple cards and data entry tasks and speeding troop deployment.

The cards could evolve into electronic purses for on-base shopping, laundry, and telephones, Mr. Gregg said. He foresees a Visa or MasterCard application as well, with a bank logo on the back of the card.

"With financial applications the potential payback could be much quicker," he said.

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