A Smarter Smart Card?

31 January 2000
A smart card system currently being developed will enable punters to place bets using remote devices such as personal computers, cellular phones and palm organizers. The system is called Kaosc, which stands for "killer applications on smart cards" and is being developed with the gambling industry in mind.

Developer Gavin Shenker aims to sell the smart card and its software to online gaming companies as well as operators of casinos and lotteries. "Smart card gaming makes the system operators' server extremely simple, " said Shenker. "Instead of a backend gaming system, they only have to provide the loading and redemption services to the user. They, therefore, do not require the ability to handle huge bandwidth," he explained.

The system works simply, similar to how a credit card or check is used, according to Shenker. "The system operator would require a new backend module to allow the loading of units to the smart card. The smart card can be used across multiple sites, but each site would require a separate balance field on the user's card. This is to ensure that a user could not load units from one site and then redeem winnings from another site."

The system is also designed to be easy to use for consumers. After registering with a site and downloading the necessary application, the user would receive a smart card. (While readers could be bought from a variety of sources, according to Shenker, it's possible that the site operator would also give readers out to customers.)

When a customer is ready to gamble, he goes back to the site and loads "units" (money) onto the smart card. When loaded up and ready to play, the link to the site is no longer necessary. Instead, the player uses the smart card and application to gamble. The actual game is contained and played internally within the smart card. The application (a graphical user interface) communicates with the smart card through the reader. The software will provide a link to a website where customers will be able to receive winnings or add more units to the card.

"Kaosc is not necessarily more secure than current Internet gaming, but it does allow the use to gamble without the link to the system operator," Shenker explained. "This could be a big plus to the user as they could continue playing on a laptop, handheld or a cell phone while traveling. In addition, the application becomes standard, i.e. the user only has to download the application once and can use this same application to play games provided by a multitude of system operators."

Shenker estimates the simplest loading and redemption services and a basic card management system should cost about $20,000 to $30,000-. For consumers, the only hardware requirement is a device, like a PC, to connect with the smart card reader, and usually the application. "This does not apply to the new generation of cell phones, which will be able to work Kaosc cards by just inserting the card into the phone," added Shenker.

Most cards would probably be multi-application cards, usable for gaming as well as authentication, Shenker said. The cost of the card could be borne or subsidized by application providers, while some operators may even decide to provide the card free. "The system operator does not have to purchase or develop nor maintain a backend gaming system, " he added.

The Kaosc system won't work with all games. "Sports wagers are not intended for the Kaosc system, as an online link is required at the time the bet is being placed, in order to time stamp the transaction," Shenker said. "It is possible, though, to use the units on the smart card used for gaming to perform normal payment transactions.

"Currently, we are not looking an any variations to the basic games. Poker, blackjack and slots would be the initial games provided. For each new game provided, an new application would have to be downloaded."

Kaosc is being tested on a Gemplus smart card that has 2K of memory, and a Java-programmed card with 16K of memory. The Java card occupies 1.5 memory, which leaves additional room for loyalty points and similar products.

Part of the Kaosc marketing plan is a contest that offers $1,000 to anyone who can break through the security controls.

Shenker had originally suggested that the product would be available by the first quarter of 2000, but is currently in negotiation with one or more businesses. As is typical in such cases, the negotiations and relevant information is hush-hush.

If you want to find out more about Kaosc, visit the company site at www.kaosc.com.

Click here to view a photo of Kaosc.

Vicky Nolan joined the IGN staff in October 1999. She's best known for inventing fire, the wheel and swiss cheese. She can be reached at vicky@igamingnews.com.