Thursday, September 25, 2003

New credit card features

It is always good to see your alma mater in the news for good reasons. While I never took Carl Gunter's class, I have heard good things about him. Now, the Marginal Revolution refers to a paper his team presented on new features for credit cards.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have one-upped "smart" credit cards with embedded microchips: They've developed a technique that lets ordinary card users program in their own spending parameters.

Penn computer scientist Carl A. Gunter presented the work at the recent European Conference on Object-Oriented Programming in Darmstadt, Germany. The technology could let employers better manage spending on corporate cards or permit parents to get teenage children emergency credit cards usable only at locations like car repair shops, hotels or pay phones.

"Banks and other card issuers have long been able to set general parameters, such as credit limits," said Gunter, professor of computer and information science at Penn, "but most have little interest in setting finer limits because the process is cumbersome and expensive to manage. We'd like to open up these kinds of additional programming capabilities to ordinary people who'd like to take responsibility for restricting use of a card in some specific way. Users would decide what limits are needed."

It is not immediately clear to me whether the advance is actually in new hardware for the smart cards, or on the software level with the ability for users to program their own cards to some extent. It is also worth noting that this seemingly consumer-related research was done with a grant from Army Research Office, along with NSF.


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