Datamail expands into smartcards

New Zealand Post's Datamail division has established "a strategic relationship at a very senior level" with global smartcard giant Gemplus and is already developing potential smartcard applications. Projects in development include electronic deposit books, loyalty programmes and initiatives in the transport industry. Significant research is also going into the possibilities of a health services card and Post is already talking to many of its clients about applications. But according to David Warren, a director of Foresight Partners who has been seconded to work for CardPLUS, the reseller Post has formed with Gemplus, "the key interest is going to be in establishing a very large project".

New Zealand Post’s Datamail division has established “a strategic relationship at a very senior level” with global smartcard giant Gemplus and is already developing potential smartcard applications.

Projects in development include electronic deposit books, loyalty programmes and initiatives in the transport industry. Significant research is also going into the possibilities of a health services card and Post is already talking to many of its clients about applications.

But according to David Warren, a director of Foresight Partners who has been seconded to work for CardPLUS, the reseller Post has formed with Gemplus, “the key interest is going to be in establishing a very large project”.

The SOE, which has good relationships with the country’s most important organisations, could play a significant role in establishing which techologies will become standard in this country.

Warren agrees this area is “one of great strength for New Zealand Post. It has a unique position not only in terms of its points of presence and the significant agency business that it has, but also in its ability to — at relatively low cost — upgrade its network and its reader capability to cope with smartcard technologies.

“The standards will flow from an organisation like New Zealand Post, which is able to initiate projects in the first instance,” says Warren. “You’ve got Multos, you’ve got Java-Card, and so on. Which one will be mandated? Well, it’s likely to be first cab off the rank that really determines the standards.

“New Zealand Post and DataMail are looking for applications which would have benefits not only for the issuer of the card but for the user as well. And it’s looking for those applications to be pervasive.”

Warren confirms he has already had enquiries about the use of smartcards for financial transactions, but says the SOE is not prepared to comment on that issue at present. He says the branding of any future cards will also be “quite a sensitive area”.

Although work is going into “mandatory applications” such as a health card, Warren expects these to be produced only in the wake of broad public acceptance of the technology, which could take two to five years.

“There are many opportunities which, because of the political environment, are unlikely to occur immediately,” says Warren. “The new driver licensing system from LTSA [Land Transport Safety Authority] should be smartcard-enabled, but it won’t be in the first instance — we all know that.”

A full-length interview with David Warren is this week’s @IDG Friday Fry-Up. Digest it at www.idg.co.nz.

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