In March, the users of the smart card system originally sold by CyberMark to campuses in North America learned of another technology ownership change relating to their card program. The card management and transaction processing core of the program – a product called SmartCity – was sold from Fujitsu Services Limited to a Russian-owned start-up called Smart Centric Technologies International Ltd.
Smart Centric Technologies is owned by the Moscow-based LUKoil-Inter-Card, a Russian payment card processor. LUKoil-Inter-Card is owned by the Russian oil company, LUKoil, and a Russian financial institution, Commercial Bank Petrocommerce. The card processor has used the SmartCity technology as the basis for payment cards issued to customers in Russia. Certainly a factor in their interest in acquiring the technology was its continued support and development to maintain their own large deployments.
The new company will have its headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, the same location in which the Fujitsu-owned organization operated. In addition to the SmartCity solution, Smart Centric also acquired Fujitsu’s other “smart card product business” including the employees working on these solutions. Kieran Timmins, former leader of the unit for Fujitsu, has been named CEO of the new company. According to Mr. Timmins, worldwide there are more than 30 SmartCity installations including 10-12 higher education campuses in North America. Says Mr. Timmins, “we intend to support our existing customers as we have stuck together over the years but we also intend to actively grow the client base in the U.S. and abroad.”
What will this mean to the handful of campuses that have continued operating the SmartCity system in the year since the CyberMark closure? According to Mr. Timmins, “we will have more of a focus on releasing new products–including logical access and Internet card revalue.” Additionally, he cited the pending rollout of an off-campus program at one of the U.S. campuses.
At the University of Central Florida (UCF), a pilot for this off-campus merchant payment program is beginning. According to Tammy Kidder, Office Manager for the UCF Card Program, they began testing the new program this spring. “Our initial tests have gone well and we will continue adding on-campus merchant locations over the summer,” says Ms. Kidder. A new software package, called SmartCity Acquirer, enables merchant terminals to modem transactions for processing. Tests of this package have been successful according to Ms. Kidder. Smart Centric is providing new merchant terminals from Australia-based Keycorp to replace the previous merchant terminals.
UCF is also working closely with Smart Centric toward a Fall 2003 rollout of the Internet revalue capability. According to Ms. Kidder, parents or others will be able to authorize funds to be sent from a bankcard account via the web. Students will then receive these funds by visiting a kiosk or specially-equipped PC, inserting the UCF card, and entering a PIN.
As for logical security – securing the access to computers and networks – Mr. Timmins reported that several variations are available today to work with existing SmartCity cards. Using (1) the SmartCity card and a PIN, (2) the card and an on-the-card fingerprint biometric, or (3) the card, biometric and PIN, logon to Windows can be restricted and controlled.
With most of the SmartCity clients located in North America, Africa, and Asia, the obvious question of local presence and support arises. Mr. Timmins states that they are currently looking for a U.S. location and are evaluating co-locating with a partner/reseller or creating a dedicated Smart Centric office. The only indication he could give to location was that it is likely to be on the East Coast.
This past year-plus has been a difficult period for the users of SmartCity. Following CyberMark’s closure one year ago, many of the clients abandoned the smart card system in favor of other options. An estimated 12 colleges and universities have continued to operate SmartCity with the support of Fujitsu and/or HDO Card Systems, a company started by former CyberMark employees including founder Bill Norwood.
But, the uncertainty borne of competing vendor messages, varied technology options, and on-campus political and budgetary pressures left many campuses with a very difficult decision. Will this most recent transition bring positive change for the remaining SmartCity customers? If Ms. Kidder’s experience holds true for others, it may well be. “We have been extremely happy with the team’s (Fujitsu now Smart Centric) performance. They have worked hard and been very responsive to our needs.” Will others find the same experience? Only time will tell.
Visit Smart Centric Technologies on the web at www.smartcentric.com. You can contact Mr. Timmons at [email protected]; or via phone at +353-1-2161850.
SmartCity campuses in the US Provider(s)
Florida State University Fujitsu, HDO
Madison Area Technical College Fujitsu
Miami-Dade Community College Fujitsu, HDO
Spalding College Fujitsu, HDO
St. Johns University Fujitsu
SUNY Downstate Medical Center Fujitsu
University of Arizona Fujitsu
University of Central Florida Fujitsu
University of Utah Fujitsu
Villanova University Fujitsu, HDO