Pinot noir crowd tests smartcards

Wellington's Pinot Noir 2001 wine-tasting event provided a first public outing in New Zealand for an electronic payment system developed jointly by local company Eftpos NZ and Fujitsu.

Wellington’s Pinot Noir 2001 wine-tasting event provided a first public outing in New Zealand for an electronic payment system developed jointly by local company Eftpos NZ and Fujitsu.

The Eftpos NZ “eklick” smartcard, in the role of an “ electronic wallet,” was issued to people attending the February 3 and 4 event, as the sole method of payment for wine and other merchandise.

The eklick terminals were interfaced with Fujitsu’s SmartCity middleware, which supports the applications and ensures secure and accurate processing of transactions. In the Pinot Noir 2001 trial the combined system just offered electronic wallet facilities, but it is also capable of operating smartcard-based applications as varied as customer loyalty schemes and security clearance.

Every winery represented at Pinot Noir 2001 had an eklick terminal for the smart card transactions. Visitors’ disposable cards were preloaded with $30 or $60 cash. Transaction data was accumulated on a server at the event site, and at the end of the event transferred, through two 2Mb smartcards, to the banking system through ANZ Bank, which owns Eftpos (NZ).

The Fujitsu software had to be ported to the eklick terminals, supplied by Sydney-based company Indgenico. This task was accomplished in about four months, which Fujitsu smartcard business development manager Graeme Freedman calls “a remarkably short time.” Bank certification rather than technological problems occupies the majority of this time, he says.

The smartcard world is one of disparate proprietary operating systems, and a software provider like Fujitsu works to a lowest-common denominator virtual machine giving most of the function of the individual OS, then tailoring to supply the rest. All this will change, when Microsoft brings out version 3 of Windows for Smartcards, bidding to be the standard OS for the environment, Freedman says. It will significantly reduce the cost of the card, and there will then be a far better business case for the banks to support it.

The pure electronic purse applications are not where the major market lies, Freedman says. In events it is useful, because lack of cash eliminates what he euphemistically calls “the large slippage of cash to employees … but there’s not a business case for it in the wider market.”

The big future is in administration of loyalty schemes. Smartcard-based schemes, unlike conventional schemes, allow the points accumulated from a purchase to be used immediately.

There were not processing, settlement or operational problems, and hardly any problems with the terminal during the whole weekend, Fujitsu reports. Two or three cards wouldn't work properly, but this may have been due to deliberate damage by customers seeking to "break" the system, says Freedman. "A lot of people were fooling about with them, dipping them in their drinks and stuff like that, but that doesn't stop them working."

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