Smartcard briefs

November 2004 News, Products

Visa and contactless EMV cards

Visa International recently held trial in Malaysia of a contactless credit card called 'Visa Wave' that communicates with point-of-sale terminals via RFID. Unlike contactless products being tested publicly by rivals MasterCard and American Express, the Visa card complies with the international EMV standard for chip-based payment cards. The Visa trial, which ended on 31 August, involved 2000 consumers and more than 150 merchants in Malaysia's capital of Kuala Lumpur and surrounding area. The cards carry dual-interface chips so they can also be inserted into conventional EMV enabled payment terminals being rolled out in Malaysia in compliance with a government mandate aimed at reducing fraud on magnetic stripe cards.

Smart tags

Relatively unknown just a few years ago, RFID chips are potentially the greatest technology to hit retailing since the bar code, as giant retailers like Metro in Germany and the US use them to track shipments and inventory. The US Department of Defense has ordered suppliers to deploy them to help the military keep tabs on stocks of essentials, such as jeep parts, and Las Vegas casinos are snapping them into poker chips to tally bets. Little wonder that market-analysis firm AMR Research predicts a $20 billion RFID industry by 2013.

The Great Wall of China

The Beijing Municipal Administration and Communications Card Co. (BMAC) is using Philips' Mifare Ultralight contactless chip technology in a new e-ticketing system for the Great Wall of China at Badaling, Beijing. Visitors will obtain faster, easier and more convenient access to this popular tourist destination, as existing magnetic card access is replaced by contactless chip technology used in a contactless smartcard system. The new e-ticketing system is compatible with Beijing's existing One-Card ticketing system, which will be used at the 2008 Olympics and will also support Beijing Public Transportation mass transit cards based on Mifare contactless chip technology. Each year more than 4 million people from around the world visit the Great Wall of China. The landmark's new contactless system will streamline access by reducing ticket jams, fraud and system maintenance costs. The system will enhance the information system management of tourism spots in China, enabling a realtime management of tourist flows and will provide support for bundling transportation and accommodation. The contactless system is rugged, making it ideal for outdoor use, and is designed to withstand the hot and cold weather extremes as well as other severe weather conditions such as blowing sand encountered at the Great Wall. Visitors will obtain access to the Great Wall of China by using chip-based smartcards as tokens and later the Beijing One-Card, eliminating the need for cash payments while the tourist bureau also benefit from improved statistical information.

RFID smart tags in the woods

Graduate students at the University of Washington in Seattle are using RFID tags to identify genetically modified trees. The university's Precision Forestry Cooperative, set up by state legislature funding, seeks to improve the forestry industry's conservation techniques. TI's 134,2 kHz glass-encapsulated transponders are embedded in two-year-old Douglas Fir saplings that are genetically modified to grow more rapidly than average trees. Because of the financial investment needed to produce these saplings and the expected benefits of harvesting their seeds to produce a new generation of faster-growing trees, it is important to track their location and growth. Because trees grow from the top, the transponders become completely embedded in the middle of the tree trunk and remain at the same height. Due to the moisture within the tree, the only way to ensure a proper reading is by using a low-frequency tag, limiting the range to about two feet. Forest managers use portable readers to scan the trees and create a database of tree-related information, including originating nursery, type of tree, planter, date planted, GPS location and genetic information. With more than one billion seedlings planted per year in the United States, the potential market for RFID tagging within this sector is significant.

Smart chips on animals in Portugal

The Portuguese dog identification programme is being conducted in conjunction with the country's annual rabies vaccination drive. The Portuguese ministry was prompted to undertake the project because other countries in Europe had experienced excellent results with their pet identification campaigns and the injectable electronic identification of pets is rapidly growing in popularity throughout the world. The deadline for all of Portugal's approximately 2 million dogs to be identified and registered in a national database is 2007. Digital Angel's partner in the Portuguese initiative is Atlanta-based Merial, one of the world's leading animal healthcare companies. The issue of pet identification is prominent throughout Europe, thanks also to the recently enacted European Union's Pet Passport Initiative. This required all pets being transported between, and into, member countries to have an electronic ID system or tattoo number as well as a record of vaccinations and other clinical data by 1 October.

A smart oyster

The Oyster Card is a rechargeable, re-usable, London-wide public transport smartcard. Introduced at the end of 2003, it enables travellers to pre-pay for tickets for any mode of public transportation, either online, at Tube stations, major rail ticket offices or London Travel Information Centres. At the start of each journey - and at the end for tube and train customers - cardholders put their card near the yellow card readers and the fare is automatically charged.

Smart film passports

Chip supplier Inside Contactless, headquartered in Aix-en-Provence, France, and Fasver, a French supplier of security films used in passports and other documents, last year got together to create a new way of producing passports, one that is extremely fraud and counterfeit-resistant.

Called smartFilm, it is designed to protect biodata on official documents, and is simply a thin layer of film containing a printed antenna and a contactless chip. The chip stores the individual's data and biometrics, such as a photo and fingerprint. The document can then be read by a contactless reader system to authenticate the chip and its data, thus verifying the person's identity. The terrorist attacks in New York City, 11 Sep, 2001, changed the way the world looked at security. Driven by a whole new set of rules for gaining entrance into the US, manufacturers of passports and visas have had to change the way they do business; that is if they want to produce travel documents acceptable to the US This was the trigger that raised the interest of all countries to push for more secure IDs and passports involving biometrics. Enter smartFilm. It is supplied on the face of the passport where your picture ID is. On this is a very thin film, extremely difficult to duplicate and almost impossible to remove. SmartFilm is designed for the ID world, for any document that needs to carry information that cannot change, that you cannot remove. It is very unique, it is extremely secure: it is tamper proof. You cannot remove the security film from the device without interrupting the connection. Thus, it cannot be removed from one passport or document and placed on another.

Hong Kong airport now using RFID

This installation is to be the largest RFID installation in Asia and mirrors a similar one at the Las Vegas Airport. The Marubeni Trading Corporation responsible for these two installations is represented in South Africa by Marpless who is an agent for the Matrics smart tagging system, the heart of the installations.

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