Julian Matthews, Kuala Lumpur
SmartCard Set to Debut
Malaysias national multipurpose card (MPC) is set to be launched by August 2000, the first of its kind in the region that can be used as an identity card, driving license, passport, medical card and an e-cash card for small-value transactions. The initial roll out will involve two million residents in Kuala Lumpur and within the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC).
The card is likely to have a memory capacity of at least 32 Kbytes, a scannable thumbprint and a digital image of the user. The contract for the MPC worth US$71.6 million was recently awarded to consortium GMPC Corp Sdn Bhd, beating 11 others applicants.
GMPC Corp comprises systems integrator Dibena Enterprise Sdn Bhd, solutions provider Unisys MSC Sdn Bhd, smart card player Iris Technologies (M) Sdn Bhd, networking and hardware supplier CSA MSC Sdn Bhd and card-reader supplier EPNCR (M) Sdn Bhd. GMPC will work with the various government agencies involved to get the system up and running within a year.
A user can expect to get a card two weeks from application from the 11 service centers which will be set up. The card is a way of simplifying transactions between the public and government and to save time wasted in filling forms. The government earlier announced that a commercial payment MPC, incorporating credit, debit, e-cash and automated teller machine (ATM) functions is also expected to be rolled out by the year 2000. The specifications for the payment card will be devised by German smart card company Giesecke & Devrient GmbH.
The payment MPC will eventually have the capacity to incorporate Visa, MasterCard and other credit cards but will retain their existing brand names, said Mohammad Abdullah, executive chairman of MEPS Sdn Bhd, the company developing the card.
Two Card Approach
Malaysia decided on the two-card approach, one for government applications and another for commercial transactions, to avoid the myriad issues regarding specifications, proprietary technologies, personal security, financial risks and ethics needed to put all the functions on one card.
However, the plan is to eventually integrate both cards into a single supercard and issue it to all its 22 million citizens by 2002-03. The one supercard is expected to have the capability to add-on functionality without changing cards, such as ticketless air travel, shopping discounts, club memberships, and access key capability for entering buildings or restricted areas.
Smart card players around the world have expressed enthusiasm for the project. Malaysia can play a leading role in driving smart card technology in the rest of Asia. It is at the forefront of developing new applications for such cards, said Danny Vanhoutte, general manager of Triumphant Launch Sdn Bhd, the local representative company of leading smart card developer Proton World International SA. Proton is setting up a US$300 million regional research and support center to underline its commitment to Malaysia.
An e-cash card pilot is set for August with approximately 22,000 reloadable cash cards, which may be the forerunners of the payment MPC; they will be issued by six banks, and about 100 merchants will be involved.