Sumo smart card to handle heavy apps load

Gemplus SA's new Secure hUge Memory On-card (Sumo) technology will enable a new generation of applications to run on smart cards, according to Gilles Michel, Gemplus president of financial and security services.

While existing smart cards typically have on-card memories ranging from 8K bytes to 64K bytes, Sumo packs seven 32M-byte flash memories driven by an RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computing) processor, for a total of 224M bytes of on-chip storage. With over 1,000 times more storage than existing cards, Sumo can move smart cards into the mainstream consumer market, according to Michel.

"With that amount of storage, users can download music and video onto a smart card," he said in a keynote address at the Cards Asia conference here Tuesday. "It can help solve the crisis for the music industry caused by free downloads as smart-card technology can also provide digital rights management."

Advances such as Sumo will propel the smart-card market into an era where a range of different form-factor devices contain embedded processors and memory. The smart-card market will thus evolve into a smart-technology market, according to Michel.

"Smart technology will be found in PDAs, watches and passports," he said. "Already, Hong Kong's smart ID card looks like a one-page passport, with digitized photograph, fingerprints and stored personal data."

Michel said that Gemplus had surveyed the end-user market to see what consumers expected from future smart cards. The survey showed that 75 percent of consumers expected that smart cards will become an important part of their daily lives. An equally high proportion felt that a smart card will become the most important item in their wallet.

"Consumers want something secure, easy to use and customized," Michel said. "The cards must be multiapplication, and handle areas such as ID, payment, health information and transport system use."

The list of applications for a lifestyle smart card include electronic cash, authentication for physical access to buildings and logical access to the Web, loyalty programs, payment systems and personal data, Michel said.

The cost of producing a powerful card like Sumo is still too high for the mass market, at over US$100 per card, according to Michel. He estimated it will take between one and two years to reduce the cost of producing such a card to the $20 to $30 price range, when they may become viable for widespread use.

"This is the convenient PC," he said. "It enables mobility, and provides a mechanism for consumers to push their personal profile to many different applications."

Cards Asia continues through Thursday.

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