Make the Grade with Smart Cards
Hospitals and insurance companies can also benefit from smart cards by using them to ensure that patients' records are accurately maintained and to help administrators avoid multiple billings to insurance companies, patients and third parties. In addition, the cards can be used to store basic medical information, drug sensitivities, current conditions and doctors' names.
To Infinity and Beyond
In fact, the uses for smart card are limitless. By distilling identification, banking and security features into one piece of plastic, businesses can streamline accounting, eliminate paperwork, improve security and reduce the cost of financial transactions.
"I look at it as a way to authenticate a person and to store multiple applications in one card," said Fournier. "We have a client in New York City whose employees use smart cards as ID badges for computer and building security and as e-purses for the company cafeteria."
Smart cards also make great advertising vehicles. Whether businesses decide to offer customers memory-only cards as part of a customer loyalty program, or microchip-enhanced cards for a custom application, smart cards can drive sales and build brand identity. "Smart cards portray the image of a high-tech company with a progressive outlook," noted Ken Greenwood, business development manager, SchlumbergerSema, Austin, Texas. "Plus, they offer an opportunity to advertise on something people carry around in their wallets."
Though it may be hard for distributors to imagine offering clients a product four times as expensive as the magnetic stripe card, when they calculate the savings, increased efficiency and marketing opportunities a smart card offers, it's not that difficult.
Some distributors might also be concerned by smart cards' slow adoption in the States, however, proponents say it's only a matter of time before the cards proliferate and their prices decrease.
Several major computer manufacturers are also pushing for smart cards' adoption. Fournier said IBM, Compaq and Hewlett-Packard are currently producing reader-equipped models for consumer use. Because of their ability to minimize financial transaction costs by securely carrying monetary value, smart cards are also seen as the catalyst that will revolutionize Internet-based trade.