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The ACCU passes on review copies of computer books to its members for them to review. The result is a large, high quality collection of book reviews by programmers, for programmers. Currently there are 1918 reviews in the database and more every month.
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Title:
Smart Cards. A guide to building and managing smart card applications
Author:
Henry Dreifus&J. Thomas Monk
ISBN:
0-471-15748-1
Publisher:
Wiley
Pages:
??pp
Price:
$39.99
Reviewer:
Chris Hills
Subject:
internals and hardware; smart cards
Appeared in:
10-5
I wondered what Wiley were up to with another book on smart cards but this one complementsSmart Card Handbookby Rankel and Effing (ISBN 0-471-96720-3). This book is written for engineers, unlike the Rankle&Effing book, but at managers and people who need to understand the smart card industry as opposed to actually programming cards. Be warned though this book is aimed squarely at the US market that is some years behind Europe and moving in a different arena. The book does miss out on some things that are important in Europe (like UKIS) which will not be relevant to the US (for a while). The majority of the book is useful no matter where you are. It is useful to the Americans and perversely to the Europeans who can see how at least one, influential, American is thinking. It also gives a damn good contact list for the US.

At just on 300 pages obviously the text is not 'in depth'. Some of the sections are a single paragraph. You will, eventually, need to spend several hundred dollars more on relevant ISO standards and data books if you intend to produce smart cards. There is no way round this but as a guide to setting up and building a smart card application for the current market it is a very good overview. I get the impression that this book has grown from a one-day presentation.

Most of the contact information will be useful for several years. The information on production and standards will evolve slowly and their numbers will remain the same. So this book is well worth the money. Besides, this is the cheapest way of getting all the information, the contacts and background information that I have seen. OK, so you could get most of the information at a good smart card show but that is going to cost you more than the cover price and shows are not usually held when you need them. Reading this book before attending your first Smart Card show would be an advantage to people new to the business. Industry yearbooks seen at these shows contain much of the same contact information but have none of the other information and are usually several times more expensive.

Some of the more useful information is the round up of US card trials. Though one gets the impression from the text that the US is leading the world rather than trailing. The danger with a book like this is that the examples used may be taken as global truths and not as a transitory example of one of many. It gives the buzzwords and the ability to use them but not all the background so use them with care. I disagree with the author's views on Mondex but they are understandable from a US standpoint.

I dropped the book into the marketing department of a major European smart card company and they liked it. They gave it to two new starters in marketing as an introduction. It works, with the caveat that it is US biased. They gained a basic understanding of the industry very quickly and started asking the right questions. I started the hard way with the standards and I wish I had this book and then gone on to the Rankle&Effing book.

For anyone who wants to get into the smart card business this book will be useful. I would have thought it almost a necessity to potential smart card business and project managers in the USA. It will probably be well worth the money to Europeans moving into the industry as long as you look out for the US specific parts. Highly recommended as long as you realise that this is the book you will cut your teeth on and it will be a constant companion for a couple of months until you out grow it; then buySmart Card Handbookby Rankel and Effing, also published by Wiley, for a deeper technical insight if you need it.

Notes for the Publisher

I gave the book to two new comers in our marketing department. It brought them up to speed faster than any other method we have tried.

Appendix D only gives the non-US contact details where there is no US office. Perhaps the head office and US Office should be given for all of them. This would make it more useful for the rest of the world.

A pet hate of mine is that Americans never put the international dialling codes on any US phone numbers. They assume that all calls will be made from the mainland USA!

As part of a company with full access to the Mondex information the authors' views on Mondex are at best described as 'biased'. As I understand it the Mondex system is not unsuitable for use in the US due to paranoia rather than for any technical reason. They would like to have all electronic commerce traceable.

The authors' views on the European cryptography laws are rather surprising and I feel give an inaccurate impression. I think they are confusing personal use and export of algorithms with the use of cards containing cipher systems (I am currently implementing a smart card cipher for a UK card). I believe the US government is having to amend its laws on cryptography in order to do business with the rest of the world. International commerce speaks louder than (local) National Interest.

From the standpoint of a UK card company this book is great. By the time the US realises that certain European initiatives are world-wide it will be too late for them to do much. They have this problem with the mobile phone. The world-wide GSM standard is seen, in the US, as 'a non-US phone standard'. The US will shortly be moving to GSM.

This book could benefit from a biannual update. Wiley could also do a European version of this book, which would have a very large market, i.e. the whole world apart from the USA.