Sun, EDS unite on smart card offerings for Canadian government

Sun Microsystems Canada Inc. announced this week it will be partnering with EDS Canada to deliver smart card solutions to government organizations.

Smart cards are security devices about the same size as a credit card with an embedded microchip that stores data. They can be used for authentication purposes to establish the identity of an individual, providing them with secure access to certain areas and applications.

Sun and EDS will be marketing a “starter bundle” to all levels of Canadian government – federal, provincial and municipal – that will include Sun’s Sun Fire 280R server running on the Solaris platform, the Sun One Directory Server, the Sun One Identity Server, the Sun One Web Server, 100 smart cards and 100 readers.

EDS’ role will be to assist users with implementation of smart card solutions in conjunction with Sun.

Based on Java Card Technology, the Java specifications that enable Java to run on devices with limited memory, these smart cards can store multiple applications – up to 512KB -from different vendors.

“Within one organization you can have an application put on the chip from human resources and from your financial group,” explained Norman Lecouvie, director of business development, public sector, Sun Canada in Ottawa. “So each of these sections or divisions can be responsible for managing the membership and access control of their users.”

He said that federal government agencies have shown interest in implementing smart cards for things like physical and mobility access as some federal employees need different cards to gain access to different buildings even though they’re run by the same department.

Also, he said they have show interest using smart cards for logical access – that is, gaining access into different applications.

Meanwhile, municipal governments, he said, have expressed an interest in issuing smart cards to holders of public transit passes and for tourism purposes so visitors can purchase a smart card that holds their access to transit, museums and landmarks.

While smart cards are now being widely deployed in Asia, Canada is still in the early phases of adoption.

Calgary-based Dr. Tom Keenan, information systems professional (ISP), dean of the faculty of continuing education at the University of Calgary said there are two reasons why smart cards haven’t taken off in Canada. First, he said, there have been no aggressive marketing campaigns in Canada for smart cards and second, Canadians are very protective of their privacy.

Indeed, Lecouvie said the biggest challenge Sun and EDS face is talking to organizations about privacy.

Even so, Keenan isn’t convinced Sun and EDS’ push into the Canadian market will be a success.

“By marketing [smart cards] Sun may open up the door,” he said. “I’m sure they’ll sell some. A small city somewhere might buy them, but it’s hard to imagine in my mind that they’ll sell them to the big one which will be the federal government.”

However, he added that because EDS does lots of business with the government, its connections might pay in profit eventually, but ultimately, only time will tell.

Sun Microsystems Canada is headquartered in Markham, Ont. It is online at EDS Canada is based in Toronto. For more information visit