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Esprit Project 26390 - Provision of OMI Information Dissemination Service


The PROMISE project aimed to improve the effectiveness of OMI's information dissemination by providing support to help and encourages users and project participants with exploitation of results. The dissemination action included an OMI promotional newsletter, and attendance at appropriate dissemination events. PROMISE collected information, identified opportunities and instigated promotion activities and provided feedback for strategy and planning. PROMISE issued newsletters and bulletins and organised the OMI conference (EMMSEC) that was be held in Florence in November 1997.




Information dissemination, electronic commerce, multimedia, embedded systems.




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PROMISE Results - EMMSEC Conference

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PROMISE Results - Project Bulletins

Hardware and OMI

Whose software makes the world go around

Tooling up for tomorrows world

How smart can you get?

Perhaps one of the most commonly quoted technological cliches of recent times has been to describe smart cards as a solution in search of a problem. Everyone agreed that the technology was pretty clever but no one was terribly certain what
to do with it. Today it’s different - dramatically different. Numerous schemes have progressed beyond the ‘pilot’ stage. Many governments around the world are now introducing smart cards for a range of applications that spreads from road-tolls to issuing retirement pensions.

In 1997, some 900 million smart cards were manufactured. Although around 740 million were simple ‘memory’ cards - like the 650 million or so disposable telephone cards - some 168 million were true long-term-use smart cards containing personalised information related to a myriad of commercial and industrial applications. The vast majority of these cards, over 90%, were destined for use in the European marketplace. In fact, Europe was the birthplace of the smart card and is probably the most advanced area in adopting it.

Europe Leads the Field

In Spain, Germany, Belgium and the Czech Republic smart cards are being used for health-care so that medical information about an individual is stored on the card and can be accessed by medical professionals and pharmacists. France plans to issue smart cards to all its 57 million citizens by the millennium, as replacement for the social security insurance paper forms, of which some 850 million are issued each year. Doctors’ surgeries will be equipped with a two-card reader. When the patient visits they simply present their card to the doctor, who inserts it into the reader along with doctor’s own card. The patient can authorise payment for treatment by keying in their bank account pin-code and the doctor can access and update the health record information contained in the card. Introducing the scheme does not come cheap with estimated costs of around FFr 20 billion, but the French reckon that they will save FFr 2.5 million each year enabling a payback for the scheme within 9 years even with the issue of free cards.

Smart card technology is at the heart of the ubiquitous GSM mobile telephone, enabling you to store telephone numbers, timetables and other useful tools. Some 69 million GSM smart cards were sold during 1997. Most European banking cards are
smart cards - accounting for around 50 million units in 1997. Gemplus, the pioneering French smart card manufacturer reckon that the market is growing by 30% each year and will continue to do so for the next 10 years or so. This means that in 2003 - just five years from now - close to 4.5 billion cards will be produced, with some 750 million of these being the long-term-use micro-processor cards containing personalised
information that can be re-programmed or updated. Assuming this forecast is correct, and that Europe continues to lead the world in smart-card use, then by 2003 every man, woman and child in the European Union will have at least one and probably two personalised smart-cards lurking in their wallet, handbag or whatever.

All Myth and Magic?

There is, however, still a great deal of, mystique and incredibly confusing technical jargon surrounding smart cards. In fact, smart card technology is relatively simple - after all there is nothing desperately complicated about a microprocessor set in a piece of plastic. Historically smart card technology has been Iimited by the single chip microprocessor technology. An added constraint is the physical size of the chip which must not exceed 25mm square. Early developers were stuck with a program size of 2 or 3 Kbytes. Distinguishing between an operating system and an application function was simply not possible, added to which, no software tools were available. The consequences were a whole raft of proprietary systems, which, invariably, were
incompatible with each other. Not dissimilar, in many ways, to the early days of the PC at the beginning of the l980s - when CP/M, MS-DOS, Pro-DOS and a variety of other proprietary operating systems made compatibility and networking an absolute nightmare.

Today, owing as much to the work of the open systems movement as to Mr Gates, most computers can talk to each other with very little difficulty. Standardisation was the key that enabled this to happen within a relatively short splice of time.

Smart cards get standards

Standardisation in the smart card arena is now one of the main driving forces in opening up their market potential. A whole range of standard specifications are now available for the various components and technologies that make up a smart card - although several have yet to be formally ratified by the International Standards Organisation (ISO). The most important smart-card standard is ISO 7816. This deals with such aspects as the physical dimensions of the card, how the card makes contact with its reader, communication protocols, inter-industry commands for interchange, application identification and inter-industry data elements. With customers demanding compliance as a pre-requisite of purchase, all current smart card suppliers are being forced to comply to ISO 7816 - moving smart card technology out of its proprietary world and leading to even greater demand and variety of application.

Although industry standards have played an enormous role in opening up the potential for smart cards, a more mundane problem still exists - that of technology itself.

Technology stagnation

More than 15 years ago, the microprocessors used in PCs were 8 bit CISC (complex instruction-set computing) chips. Microprocessors have since progressed to 16 and 32 bit devices and we are now moving toward 64-bit architectures. There has been no comparable evolution for the microprocessors used in smart cards. Today’s smart cards still use the same 8-bit microcontroller core as in the fist generation microprocessors - a design that is over 15 years old! Over the last ten years, semiconductor technology has provided much more memory space for smart card chips and much -work has been done to develop powerful tools. However, it still takes around 12 months to develop and test a new card for a customer. With ever increasing market demand and smart cards now being viewed as providing a competitive edge, this is no longer acceptable. A radical re-engineering of the smart card technology is needed - step in the Open Microprocessor systems Initiative OMI).

Smart cards and OMI - a great leap forward

OMI was established in 1993 as part of the European Union’s Esprit Programme ((European Strategic Programme for Research and development in Information Technology). OMI’s vision is for Europe to have a credible, word-class standing in the provision of microprocessor systems and related technology - in other words, the hardware and the software of an embedded system which are, of course, the basic technology components of every smart card.

Early in 1994 OMI funded a research and development project aimed at producing a platform for a new generation of microprocessors for portable electronic devices, including smart cards. The project, known as CASCADE and led by Gemplus with support from companies such as Dassault in France, Nokia in Finland and Advanced RISC Machines in the UK, set out to develop a new chip architecture based on a 32-bit RISC (reduced instruction set computing) chip which could be adapted for portable electronic applications including smart cards. As well as the architecture for the hardware platform, the project also set about developing a secure, multi-tasking operating system that would conform to, existing and emerging industry standards and software development tools specifically for the new architecture.

The results of the project provide a quantum leap forward in smart card processing power. The RISC processor chosen as the basis for the new architecture was an ARM processor some 100 times more powerful than the chips used in current smart cards. Texas Instrument are now manufacturing the new chips under licence. The first smart cards containing the new processor became available at the end of 1997.

The brave new software world

The availability of a very powerful new processor for smart cards enabled the project to develop a true operating system whose function is to manage the smart card hardware resources for an application in much the same way as the operating system on a PC works. This capability significantly opens up the world of smart card application development, which is no longer constrained by the limitations of the old 8-bit architecture and no operating system. The project has developed a powerful multi-service operating system. The software comes in three parts - a virtual machine (with some native functions such as cryptography), a multi-service operating system with a well defined application programming interface (API), and Applets' which are specific to one application and to one customer.

How smart can you get ?

Now the smart card issuer can develop the smart card applications (the Applet) they want in a high-level recognisable computer programming language. They can implement the Applet on cards provided by different manufacturers. They can modify the functions of the card AFTER its personalisation and issuing. They can add new Applets or erase old Applets - which means the issuer can change the way they do business with their customers without reissuing cards. Perhaps most significantly, this new technology opens the door to true, flexible multi-application schemes on a single card. A myriad of similar platforms are likely to emerge during the next few years to take advantage of these new market opportunities. OMI and the CASCADE project team can be deservedly proud to have laid the foundations.


0MI Bulletins are occasional leaflets published by the OMI PROMISE project.
0MI,The Open Microprocessor systems Initiative, is a programme set up by the European Information Technology industry and the European Commission in the framework of Esprit the European strategic Programme for Research and Development in Information Technology.

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