Asia, the smart card lab
Asia Pacific is the place of many firsts in the smart card industry.
Asia has the largest mobile communication operators (China Mobile and China Unicom), among the best coverage levels, and the most innovative mobile communication applications. For instance, mobile payment and NFC applications are taking off quickly in Asia with trials such as the one in Taiwan.
The first mass transit applications happened in Asia, in Seoul, in Hong Kong, in Singapore … And now, the mass transit operators in Asia are still the ones with the most integrated systems, and the ones where the concept of turning a mass transit card into a prepaid payment tool has been pushed the further. One of the best examples is Hong Kong MTRC.
Several countries in Asia have already completed ePassport projects. And major implementations of ID projects like the health care project in Taiwan have been in existence for several years.
In many places in the Asia Pacific region, banking projects are prevalent, with Malaysia being the champion of both EMV and contactless payments, and major contactless payment projects happening under JCB, MasterCard and Visa brand names. And many countries are involved in ID projects, the biggest one being China which has the will to equip 900 million citizens with ID cards before the Olympics in summer 2008.
Asia is also the place where tomorrow's applications are started. Mobile payment is happening with various implementations types from a full SMS based system to NFC pilots. Convergence in the Asia Pacific region also comes in the form of remittances projects associating payment with telecommunications.
Asia might well be the lab where the future of smart card applications is developed. So far the major players in the smart card industry are still Europeans. But there is little certainty this situation will last forever.