As smart-card technology gathers momentum, vendors and users are trying to influence the creation of common standards.
PC and smart-card (SC) vendors have joined together as the PC/SC Workgroup to integrate their technologies.
The PC/SC Workgroup announced five new members this week at the CardTech/SecurTech conference in Florida. Gemplus, IBM, Sun, Toshiba, and VeriFone have joined Bull, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Schlumberger, and Siemens-Nixdorf to form the PC/SC Workgroup.
Smart cards are approximately the size of credit cards and contain a computer chip that can be used for network security, authentication, electronic commerce, and other purposes.
The PC/SC Workgroup plans on releasing a standard for the use of smart cards with Windows PCs by the end of the year, but the quest for a true standard may not end there. Other smart-card standards have already been announced and more may lurk on the horizon.
OpenCard, a standard devised by Oracle, IBM, Apple, Sun, and Netscape, was recently announced, and PC/SC Workgroup is already attempting to find overlaps between the two standards to make them compatible, a PC/SC Workgroup representative said.
Another group with an interest in setting standards for smart cards and other technologies will be the Client Network Computing Coalition (CNCC.) Founders of the CNCC include Bank of America, NatWest Bank, Royal Bank of Canada, and ABN AMRO, as well as Sun and IBM.
Some analysts hope that CNCC will be able to influence the industry standards.
"I am told their primary goal is to come up with network-computer standards that meet the needs of the users," says Lou Greer, vice president of corporate communications for Network Computing Devices.
"My problem with [PC/SC Workgroup] is that it is a manufacturers' group and not a users' group," Greer said.
Smart cards may become more numerous if a standard could be achieved, says Chris Byrnes, vice president for services and system management strategies for the Meta Group.
"Having three groups all trying to create a separate standard does not indicate that we're close to a standard; it indicates that we're about a year away from a standard," Byrnes says.
The PC/SC Workgroup can be reached at http://www.smartcardsys.com.