Gemplus puts Java on 32-bit smartcard

Gemplus SA has announced GemXpresso, a smart card that uses Sun's JavaCard API 2.0 and that runs on a 32-bit, rather than an 8-bit, processor. Gemplus claims to be the first smart card vendor to announce a 32-bit card, which it has built around a RISC ARM7 chip from Texas Instruments. The chip promises to process 20 million instructions per second, outstripping the average 8-bit smartcard chip's ability to churn through approximately one-half million instructions per second. Upshot: the kind of performance required for Java and encryption applications.

Gemplus SA has announced GemXpresso, a smart card that uses Sun's JavaCard API 2.0 and that runs on a 32-bit, rather than an 8-bit, processor.

Gemplus claims to be the first smart card vendor to announce a 32-bit card, which it has built around a RISC ARM7 chip from Texas Instruments. The chip promises to process 20 million instructions per second, outstripping the average 8-bit smartcard chip's ability to churn through approximately one-half million instructions per second, Gemplus officials say.

Part of the appeal of greater processing power is the ability to run Java on the chip without the processor grinding to a near halt. Sun announced last week that the JavaCard 2.0 specification has been finalised.

And one of the advantages of Java is that it opens the door to more potential application developers, according to Gemplus officials.

Smartcard software developers traditionally work to a card vendor's proprietary specifications and build applications that once on the card stay frozen there for life, according to Michel Roux, general manager of multimedia business division at Gemplus. Java not only provides developers with a common set of APIs to create smart cards that tie into Internet applications and desktops, it also lets users download applets and updates to software applications on the card, said Roux.

In keeping with its competitors here at the CarteS smartcard show, Gemplus stressed the burgeoning role of smart cards in corporate information technology systems.

A number of initiatives are helping smart cards slot into corporate IT systems. Microsoft, for one, has made available a free software developers kit for smartcards. The kit contains the APIs that developers need to write smartcard applications for Windows-based machines and take advantage of the device drivers for PCs from different manufacturers.

Smartcard tasks within companies will include providing user authentication and secure access from browsers to servers, said Roux. Gemplus already provides smart cards for ImagineCard, a smart card-based security package for corporate applications and Web services developed by Hewlett-Packard Co., Gemplus and Informix Software Inc. The GemXpresso smart card may eventually find its way into the ImagineCard package, Roux said.

Gemplus can be reached on the World Wide Web at http://www.gemplus.com/. The Java Card 2.0 specification is available at http://java.sun.com/products/javacard/.

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