Belgium's Dexia Bank is launching a new smart card system designed to deliver electronic payment and access control services to schoolchildren.
Dexia's Portos card system uses the Proton multiple-application smart card technology in a Windows/NT host system. Portos aims to provide a secure and convenient means of making the small, everyday payments required in schools (for example for lunch, snacks, drinks, stationery and books) and also for controlling access to certain buildings, rooms or databases.
The system has already been piloted in two schools, one in Brussels and one in Tournai, with encouraging results says Dexia. In both cases, cash was completely eliminated from the schools by making Portos the only accepted means of payment.
In practice, each school has a special account at Dexia Bank, into which parents transfer funds from their bank accounts, quoting a unique reference number, which directs the funds to the individual virtual account for that child. Pupils can top-up cards online using Portos load terminals located on the school premises. The pupil then spends the value off-line and re-loads the card as required.
When the payments are collected by the school, a payments log is created, which can be sent to the pupils parents or guardians on request. When a pupil reaches the end of his or her time at a school, the card is returned, the virtual account is closed, and the card is re-personalised for another pupil.
The school buys the cards, the load terminals and the payment terminals from Dexia Bank, and is encouraged to charge a deposit for each card, which makes the pupils look after them and covers the cost of any replacements.
Dexia Bank is now targeting all 850 state secondary schools in Belgium, and is also looking at the possibility of introducing Portos to other closed user groups, such as hospitals, old people’s homes and prisons. The Portos system is confined to closed user groups, and, although based on the same Proton technology, does not interoperate with Proton, the Belgian national e-purse system, operated by Banksys.
Gilles Orts, Portos project manager at Dexia Bank, says: "We are confident that, once the first few schools have adopted Portos, it will rapidly take off in Belgium."
Guy Verniers, vice president, Emea sales at Proton World, adds: "Closed user groups such as these schools are a target potential growth area for us, especially as they tend to cluster over a large geographical area, and can totally exclude cash, which is often not possible in larger premises."