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Europe leads smartcard sector

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Europe leads the US, Asia and Latin America in the use of smartcards, according to market research institute Datamonitor. The company says that turnover in smartcards reached nearly $US3bn ($A5.31bn) last year, with more than half the business done in Europe.

According to Gartner Dataquest, Infineon Technologies took the top spot in terms of both numbers and turnover for the third year running. The company achieved a 47% market share of smartcard chips.

In 2001, 2.1bn smartcards were in use globally, and the number is set to rise to 3.6bn by 2004. Europe’s share of this increasing market is under threat however, and is projected to sink to 36% by 2006, by which time the sector will be worth $8bn ($A14.1bn). The swing will be mainly in favour of Asia, partly fuelled by Japan’s plans to replace 120million identity cards with smart versions. China is planning a similar ID card, and in an attempt to counter the terrorist threat, even the US, which has historically fought shy of national ID cards, is considering their introduction. Additional security features on ID smartcards will demand more sophisticated chips, with additional embedded memory.

A study by analysts Frost & Sullivan indicates the SIM cards used for mobile phones remain an important sector even after the recent downturn. New growth opportunities are identified in the converging mobile products sector.

Leading smartcard manufacturers will be exhibiting at the Electronica 2002 trade fair (organised by Messe Munchen ), taking place from 12 to 15 November 2002. Products on show range from simple memory cards to version containing embedded processors to allow interaction with other electronics equipment.

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