A smart card day in Paris

Monday, 5 May 2003, 3:42 PM EST

In Paris, it's hard to imagine a day without smart cards. Invented in France in 1979, the small plastic cards get their brains from a computer chip that can be programmed to allow consumers to chat on their cell phones, buy baguettes and ride the metro.

Equipped with a password, they can be used as security devices at office complexes and military bases.

While smart cards have been slow to catch on in North America, Europe built its banking networks using the technology instead of the cheaper magnetic strip cards U.S. banks favor. To convert U.S. banks to smart cards would cost more than $12 billion, according to analysts at Frost & Sullivan. But as security concerns mount, U.S. banks will likely make the switch, says Can Elbi, an Amsterdam-based IT hardware analyst for Credit Suisse First Boston.

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