A new industry consortium will develop standards for smart card technology to help corporate users gain secure, easy access to public high- speed wireless Internet networks sprouting up around the globe.
The WLAN Smart Card Consortium aims to establish a set of specifications to allow business people to use smart cards to access public WLAN (Wireless LAN) hotspots around the world and pay for the service.
The consortium is being launched by 19 companies and institutions including Alcatel (France), DaiNippon Printing (Japan), Infineon Technologies (Germany) and Texas Instruments (US).
It intends to support existing standards but will also define new specifications to allow travelling business people and others to use smart card technology when roaming WLAN hotspots worldwide.
They would be able to pay for this service and other personalised offerings in an easy, secure way, according to the group.
The founding members of the consortium include IT and telecommunication equipment manufacturers, chip card vendors and academic institutions such as École Nationale Supérieure des Télécommunications in France. They will work closely with organisations such as the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) in the US, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and other organisations such as the European Telecommunications Standards Institute, according to the consortium’s charter published on its Web site http://wlansmartcard.org.
The group will develop specifications of its own only in those cases where no existing specification exists.
“The consortium is a very good idea,” said Philip Low, managing director of BroadGroup, a London consultancy specialising in broadband services.
“Ubiquity and security are the big challenges facing the WLAN sector,” Low said. “Corporate users want ubiquitous coverage and secure network service. Universal smart card technology could help provide this.”
But he warned that some governments, such as the UK, were concerned about privacy protection and smart cards.