Sun pushes Java smart card tech

Sun Microsystems launched a new initiative the week of November 17 that it believes will accelerate the adoption of its Java Card technology for smart cards by drawing a broader range of smart-card developers into the Java camp. The new "Java Card S" program allows Sun licensees to develop and produce smart cards using multi-application Java Card technology in fixed-function cards.

The Java Card platform is designed to give developers working with the credit card-sized plastic cards -- embedded with microprocessors and memory -- the same dynamic applet download capabilities they get with the rest of Java.

According to Peter Cattaneo, director of Sun's Java Card Business, most smart cards produced today are "fixed-function" cards that don't require such dynamic capabilities. Until now, Sun actually prohibited its Java licensees from making fixed-function Java Cards. "Basically, anything that was Java had to have the full capabilities of everything you might want to do in the Java Card APIs," Cattaneo explained.

Under the new Java Card S program, Sun will begin to allow Java Card licensees to incorporate the technology into fixed-function cards. "Now," said Cattaneo, "whatever type of card they want to develop -- whether it's a big, fancy, dynamic multi-application-does-everything card, or just a fixed-function card they want to optimize -- they can do it in Java."

The new program will enable Java Card licensees to deliver smart cards at a cost competitive with those produced with assembly and C programming languages, Cattaneo said. Java Card S products will have all the functionalities of standard Java Card smart cards except for dynamic post-issuance applet download capability, he added.

In related announcements, Sun said that it has released the Java Card 2.2.1 Platform specification and the Java Card 2.2.1 Development Kit.

Building on the Java Card 2.2 spec, which provides a set of enhancements for secure services, the 2.2.1 release includes additional security enhancements, as well as features to align Java Card technology with smart card industry standards, including GlobalPlatform and ETSI/SCP. Java Card 2.2.1 is fully backwards-compatible with previous versions of Java Card technology.

Among the enhancements in this release are support for wireless standards from the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), Third Generation Partner Project (3GPP) and Wireless Access Protocol (WAP); new design and development features that allow developers to create applications that use Java technology for both the card and terminal; support for AES and Elliptic Curve cryptographic algorithms; and improved memory management.

For complete details on the Java Card 2.2.1 Platform Specification and Development Kit please visit


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About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at


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