There could be a serious British presence in the embedded microprocessor Smart Card business after all. With GEC having gone quiet on its inductive card announced in 1985, De La Rue Plc has taken up the challenge of competing with Groupe Bull SA and the Japanese in what is now being seen as potentially a huge market, offering a complete set of readers and cards from its Payment Systems Division in London W. The De La Rue Integrated Circuit Card is the product of 18 months development. It features an Hitachi 8-bit 65901 microprocessor with 128 bytes of RAM, 3Kb ROM and 2Kb electronically erasable PROM. Multiple applications can be programmed into the card. Unlike the Bull chip which is drilled in to the card and wire bonded into place, the De La Rue processor is fabricated straight on to the plastic card using a tape-automated bonding technique – a process ironically pioneered by Bull. As a result, according to product marketing manager Stephen Rogers, the De La Rue IC Card is stronger and more geared to volume production than its rival. The card, which conforms to recently announced ISO standards for both contact points and the ability to survive bending and flexing, has three levels of security built in. It will ship in volume from mid-1988 at between UKP6 and UKP9 a card. De La Rue also has a full line of read-write units for the cards, which can also incorporate the company’s Dynamic Signature Verification System. The cards are being made at the company’s mag stripe card plant. A natural language toolset for developing applications and some standard packages will also be available. Rogers sees plenty of 3,000 to 5,000 card pilot schemes over the next 18 months but says it will be at least two years before the cards become widely used. The IC Card will be targeted at a wide range of applications including finance, banking, telecommunications, access control and leisure.
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