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Personalizing the chip card

MANILA, Philippines - It’s getting more and more personal.

As countries rapidly migrate to the use of EMV (Europay, MasterCard and Visa) chip cards in telecommunications, banking and financial services, government, mass transit, and IT security, among others, a trend is brewing in the horizon.

Now, your credit card or ATM card doesn’t have to look like everybody else’s. In the first place, why should it?

The age of the individual is here and personalization is king. Applications that could make the individual stand out — in his phone, his blog, his music, his Facebook page, his Tumblr or Twitter page — have been selling hot on download street. Yahoo even adopted a catchphrase for it: “Your own personal everything.”

Taking this idea further down the tech road, it would be nice if instead of the traditional bank colors and logo, your pet dog or your fabulous car would be the design featured in your own ATM or credit card, right? Different strokes for different folk. It could be the photo of my infant son or your teenage daughter, your Kodak moment with P-Noy during the inaugural and street party, someone’s sunset photo along Manila Bay. And you’ll readily know if someone stole your card while you’re blinking because surely the burly man across the street couldn’t have picked the lovely kitten sitting in your windowsill as his own personal stamp.

Tan Wee Teng, Gemalto’s sales director for secure transactions in Indonesia, the Philippines and Indochina, said in an interview that while smart cards using the EMV chip rather than the traditional magnetic stripe technology for identity authentication is really to make personal digital interactions more safe and more convenient, it doesn’t have to stop there — the cards should also be fun to use.

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A world leader in digital security and a global manufacturer of EMV chip cards, Gemalto has provided many banks, financial institutions, governments and transportation companies with this technology to allow customers to personalize their cards.

The use of Gemalto’s software and secure devices increases with the number of people interacting in the digital and wireless world.

“So why are modern consumers so determined to have their identity emblazoned on every available surface?” Gemalto asked on its website. “With 7.9 billion banking cards in circulation worldwide, according to the 2008 World Payments Report, personalization could be a crucial differentiating factor in today’s competitive market.”

Tan added that with a personalized design, people have also a tendency to use their card more often and to value it more.

“Young people are becoming more narcissistic,” explains Dr. David Holmes, director of the Forensic Research Group, Psychology and Social Change at Manchester Metropolitan University. “What’s more, there’s an emerging generation of “digital natives” — people who have been brought up with technology and the options it offers — who see choice as something that they’re entitled to, not something that they have to earn or deserve.”

Thus, “rather than displaying their brand credentials overtly, banks may need to accept that their corporate identity can coexist with, or even merge with, the consumer’s identity, creating a completely new kind of brand where customer loyalty is inbuilt.”

Gemalto admits though that this may be part of a “wider trend for conspicuous displays of individuality, such as tattoos and body piercings - a reaction (whether conscious or not) against the perception of a pervasive globalization that threatens to throw a blanket of uniformity over the world.”

Notwithstanding the form factor, EMV chips offer the highest level of security for personal devices, said Tan. Other than bank cards, these chips are also used in SIM cards, e-passports and tokens.

“In Singapore, by the end of this year, every single credit card will be EMV chip cards,” he said. “Thailand has started migrating to chip cards, Taiwan and China have also started introducing these, and Japan migrated to EMV chips many years ago.”

The only few remaining countries that have yet to adopt it on a bigger scale are the Philippines, India and Cambodia. For one, Tan said credit card fraud is not high enough and banks have to build a business case for its use and application.

“When you go to the chip card business there is a lot of opportunities for co-branding,” Tan said. And he is optimistic that sooner or later the Philippines will also go into massive adoption of this technology across industries, not just in the financial and transportation sectors.

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