New Zealand Post's new smartcard partner has predicted there will be one smartcard for every person in the world within five years.
Card giant Gemplus, which forged a deal with Post's Datamail division late last year, has forecast 6.32 billion smartcards in circulation by the year 2003, based on its own market study.
Gemplus' projection represents an average yearly growth rate of 38% across all applications, but it expects some sectors to grow far more rapidly - especially information technology, which is marked to grow 142% from a million cards today to 120 million in 2003.
For comparison, Gemplus notes that the market penetration of smartcards is increasing by a factor of 10 every seven years, with one card per 100 people in 1989 and one for every 10 by 1996.
David Warren, of Datamail's CardPLUS venture, says he is "inclined to believe there's a lot of substance" in Gemplus' forecast, but warns that "it depends on what your idea of a smartcard is. There's a smartcard in the phone in my hand, for example. How many of those cards are stored value cards by 2003 is quite another matter."