Giving currency to the Java Card API

A developer's guide to opportunities on a new Java platform

The computer industry, more than any other, is built on the fundamental assumption of constant change. Moore's law, for example, states that every eighteen months the number of transistors that can fit in a specific area doubles. Inexorably, and with almost assiduous precision, the industry experiences the obsolescence of an entire spectrum of products and the birth of a new generation, based on the latest generation of microprocessors. The newest generation of processors has yielded many well-recognized devices, including sub-notebooks, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and intelligent cell phones. It has also yielded a new generation of devices that, until now, have not been as well known, of which smart cards are only one example.

This article begins with a brief review of smart cards, a discussion of the benefits of the Java Card API, and an explanation of why the Java Card API has taken the smart card industry by storm. This is followed by a description of applications and services that will be demanded by companies trying to implement Java Card technologies. Finally, it discusses ways in which the Java Card is part of a larger trend in computing, and suggests ways for you to begin thinking about developing the skills necessary to succeed in an era of individualistic computers. For details on Schlumberger's CyberFlex Java Card, see the current Java Developer column by Rinaldo Di Giorgio.

Why have smart cards received more attention than other new devices? Smart cards have existed in a variety of forms since 1974; they have had substantial success in parts of Europe (France and Germany, in particular); and this success has been driven by the development efforts of several notable companies (Bull/CP8, GemPlus, and Schlumberger, among others). You could even say that, in many ways, smart cards now have reached critical mass -- not only in Europe, but in the United States and Asia as well. Today, 95 percent of all smart cards are sold in Europe. By 2001, analysts at Data Monitor, a market research organization that focuses on smart card markets, predict that well over 25 percent of the worldwide market for the 3 billion smart cards sold in that year will be outside of Europe. Much of the success that smart cards will experience in the next few years, and their increasing worldwide adoption, is directly related to one fundamental invention that is changing the nature of competition in the smart card industry: The Java Card API.

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