Today was the first day of the 2009 edition of the Cartes show, the greatest smart card show on earth. Not much time to look around, but I didn’t catch a lot of excitement this time. There aren’t that many new things going on, and everybody looks like the first golden era of the smart card is over.
Will there be a next one? Maybe, but maybe not. Handset vendors don’t seem to hurry for supporting NFC, Smart Card Web Servers, and other USB interfaces for SIM cards. NFC seems to be moving, but definitely not fast. Android seems to be the only good news for the industry. At last, there are phones on which we can play with the software, including the drivers we want, the missing software layer, and anything else that is required for a good demo.
The numbers aren’t that bad, though. Part of my day was spent sitting on a Java Card Forum panel, and some of the figures shown by Sun sound good: 5 billion smart cards in 2009, including almost 2 billion with Java Card. And the marlet is still growing, with a forecast of 7.5 billion cards including 3 billion with Java in 2012. Wait, over 70% of these are SIM cards, and although the volume is growing, the associated revenue may not grow that much, as SIM cards become real commodities, with price as the last differentiator.
I guess that this is enough gloom for tonight. Tomorrow, I will start saving the smart card industry. First by going to look at a few Sesames winners, in particular Sagem’s Internet-of-Things demo, and Neowave for their ID product. And second, by looking positively at potential new applications for our beloved SIM cards.