Two multilateral efforts initiated by Visa to accelerate the spread of smart cards reported technical and organizational progress over the past week.

Visa and Europay International, which is an affiliate and close marketing ally of MasterCard, announced two developments under the framework of CEPS - Common Electronic Purse Specifications - that are said to make it easier for separate electronic cash programs to communicate or interoperate with each other.

Separately, GlobalPlatform Inc., which Visa, American Express Co., Proton World International, and several other card industry and technology leaders formed in October, elected a board of directors led by Steve Brown, smart card business development manager at British Telecommunications PLC.

CEPS and GlobalPlatform are on different paths, though they have Visa provenance and support in common. Their announcements are signs of continued momentum toward standards that many industry observers view as essential to establishing the advanced card technology for the long term.

CEPS, which has been embraced by most stored-value card sponsors other than MasterCard's Mondex subsidiary, seeks to make all such electronic purses compatible. This is regarded as particularly important in view of the economic and currency unification in Europe.

GlobalPlatform is an independent company that has taken responsibility for the Visa Open Platform specification for multiple applications on a card's chip. Microsoft Corp. joined GlobalPlatform along with rival Sun Microsystems Inc., on whose Java programming language Open Platform was originally based. There are 33 members in all, but not all the names have been disclosed.

Serving under Mr. Brown as vice chairman of the GlobalPlatform board is Philip Yen, the Open Platform champion at Visa International whose title is senior vice president of Internet and access channels.

Other directors are: Seiichi Ido, associate senior vice president of the information-sharing platform laboratories at NTT Corp. of Japan; Masanori Maeda, senior vice president of electronic commerce at JCB Co. of Japan; Vince Pizzica, national general manager of personalized solutions at the Australian telecommunications giant Telstra; Chung Wook Suh, chairman of TTA of South Korea; and Glenn Weiner, vice president of smart card technologies at American Express Co.

Mondex International may remain a holdout from this group as well. But Telstra and American Express are members of Maosco, the consortium that oversees the Multos multiple-application operating system that Mondex developed. JCB is also a user of Multos.

Mr. Brown said he is confident that this team, a mix of "unique business perspective and industry experience," can "spur the growth of global multiple-application smart card usage."

GlobalPlatform also formed four working committees and designated chairmen and -women: a business committee headed by Dominique Hautain, executive vice president, Proton World; systems infrastructure led by Nicole Moyal, director at American Express; card infrastructure headed by Jim Lee, senior vice president, Visa; and terminal infrastructure led by Cichel Dargent, architect and new product manager, Ingenico.

Coming out of CEPS are:

  • A Europay-Visa Joint Specification for Common Electronic Purse Cards. Visa had previously released a document, VCEPS, on how its own Visa Cash cards would operate within CEPS. This one crosses the association boundaries with functional requirements including an unload command, file structure, card-locking and unlocking capabilities, and card personalization.
  • Terminal Architecture for PSAM Applications, or TAPA. Visa and Europay worked with the payment processor PBS of Denmark on a way to ensure that terminals with PSAMs - Purchase Secure Application Modules - can accept multiple-application cards without regard to operating platform. TAPA applies to physical terminals as well as to virtual transactions on the Internet.

"We view the TAPA specifications as the basis for the next generation of terminals capable of handling multiple applications," said PBS general manager Lars From. "The specifications provide a common platform on which new applications can be developed and quickly tested, contributing to the proliferation of chip cards worldwide."Herve Kergoat, head of electronic purse at Europay in Waterloo, Belgium, said banks can take advantage of "a unique technical platform to support the products of different schemes. As a result of these joint initiatives, we also expect a significant reduction in the interoperability issues that inevitably arise with different implementations."

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