Jean McKenna, senior vice president of industry relations and standards at Visa International, has been named the first chairman of the OpenCard Consortium.

The consortium was formed two years ago as an informal group of eight vendors working to create a universal standard for smart card technology.

The group now includes 11 company members and was recently incorporated as a legal entity.

The consortium also announced two other new officers. John Stearns, chairman and chief executive officer of UbiQ Inc., was elected treasurer. UbiQ, which stands for "ubiquitous," is a privately held software firm in Minneapolis that develops technology for smart card customization.

Uwe Hansmann, of International Business Machine Corp.'s smart card business development group, was elected secretary.

The consortium's flagship property, the OpenCard Framework, is a specification that helps software developers create smart card applications that can be used in a variety of business and consumer devices. Based on Java technology, the framework provides a common interface for the smart card reader and the application on the card.

It also enables interaction with smart card readers that comply with PC work group specifications.

An upgraded version of the software framework was just released that is faster and smaller, reducing the memory requirement of the core framework by 25%.

"We want to make sure that anything that's evolving in the marketplace addresses the needs of the broader group, so we can eventually have interoperability amongst smart cards," Ms. McKenna said in an interview from her office in San Francisco. "We're trying to have a global standard for multiple industries."

Ms. McKenna joined Visa in 1984. In her current position she is responsible for the development of chip card standards and Visa's global migration plan to ensure their worldwide acceptance.

Before coming to Visa, Ms. McKenna was assistant director of operations at the Canadian Bankers Association in Toronto.

OpenCard members include diverse industry leaders such as Gemplus, Visa International, Sun Microsystems Inc., and IBM.

The framework revolves around Java, the Sun Microsystems programming language. Though Visa supports Java, MasterCard does not, and the disagreement has caused a major industry rift.

"We believe there should be some competition in the marketplace," Ms. McKenna said. "There may be some different operating systems, but at least a financial institution should be able to choose which one (language) they would like to use and make sure they work in a common fashion."

She said she hopes for "a coming together ... to make life easier for our members."

Ms. McKenna, who was the Smart Card Forum's second president, said most of the OpenCard members also belong to the Smart Card Forum and the Global Chipcard Alliance.

The OpenCard Consortium is one body that has written a specification, while the Global Chipcard Alliance maintains a broader focus by identifying all the standards in the marketplace and working to ensure interoperability.

The Smart Card Forum, with 200 members, works primarily as an educational resource and aims to accelerate acceptance of multiple- application smart card technology.

"We all clearly identified what each group was doing and offered to share our information," Ms. McKenna said.

There's a strong recognition in the financial, communications, and retailing industries, she said, "that we need to move closer together ... (so) we'll have a device that can accept cards from multiple industries."

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