Smart Card Talk : April 2011 : SCALA Associate Director’s Letter

SCALA Associate Director’s Letter

Dear SCALA–Smart Card Alliance Latin America Member and Friends,

My definition of luck is, “when preparedness meets opportunity.” This is true for most us who have struggled or worked very hard to get where we are today. There is a lot of merit for those professionals who have foregone something in their lives to get prepared for their desired life’s goal. Many in our industry have amazed me with their stories of triumph that showed their level of commitment, drive, loyalty, and passion for our industry, all without public acknowledgement of their actions.

The word preparation means many things to many people. According to Wikipedia, “preparedness refers to the state of being prepared for specific or unpredictable events or situations. Preparedness is an important quality in achieving goals and in avoiding and mitigating negative outcomes.” All of us have seen the images of the Chilean miners trapped underground who were rescued by a team of well-prepared responders who had the necessary equipment, knowledge, experience, and creativity to make this tragedy into news of triumph. It was amazing to me how, in the midst of a crisis, the miners were able to bind together, not putting anyone’s needs before the others and showing a great deal of solidarity and unity. The miners’ goals were to ensure that everyone would get out of the mine, not just one, and that there was no room for desperation or individualism because it would have created chaos.

Now these miners are nothing short of celebrities, participating in different events, activities, and venues. It must be surreal to move from the experience of not knowing if you will survive the next morning and rationing food and fluids to celebrity status where everything you can think of is set in front of you. Obviously the most important things they were able to get out of this situation were their lives and a deep connection with their fellow miners that an outsider wouldn’t understand.

In our industry, we also try to mitigate the risk of potential disasters and develop preparedness plans in case the unexpected occurs. The primary key for control of a situation is to have as much knowledge of the subject matter as possible. The education, experience, intuition, and ability to learn quickly may be the difference that turns a tragedy into news of triumph. The Smart Card Alliance and SCALA focus heavily on education to reduce the risk of smart card implementations. The investment in education done by our organization and participating members directly affects the growing credibility and increased market acceptance of smart card technology and other form factors.

The white papers, industry reports, educational material, and training programs help end users, suppliers, and integrators better understand their place in the value chain. In addition, it helps them to understand the knowledge required to accomplish their tasks successfully. In Latin America, we have the “luck” (when preparedness meets opportunity) of being able to use, modify, and leverage already-developed Smart Card Alliance resources to serve the needs of our markets. It is even better news when we can make these resources our own and offer them in Spanish and Portuguese.

One of the SCALA resources that has received vast interest in the region is being developed for the financial industry–the white paper “Card Payments Roadmap in Latin America: How Does EMV Impact the Payments Infrastructure?” This white paper is meant to help issuers and acquirers reduce the risk of EMV smart card implementations by guiding them through the steps and considerations for an implementation. A key point in the process is the decision concerning the selection of an open operating system or platform. This is a point of controversy depending on the definition used for the word “open,” which can be defined based on personalization or technical terms. The importance of education is that it helps you to understand the benefits of each operating system.

Another resource that SCALA has made its own is the “Fundamental Smart Card Technology” online course. This nine-module course provides a good opportunity for users to gain an understanding of smart card technology. At the end of each module, the user is asked key questions on the material to help measure the user’s understanding of the subject matter. The course takes approximately six hours to complete and can be paused and continued at the same point at a later date. My favorite part of the course is that it is available in Spanish for our region.

For more information on the Spanish version of the online course:

In SCALA, we try to take advantage of the opportunities set in front of us to unite organizations, develop solidarity among our members, provide the necessary educational tools, and make available industry experts with a high level of knowledge and experience. We hope that all of you are able to be part of our close-knit community that will be able to survive any potential crisis; as the famous saying goes, “La UniĆ³n hace la fuerza” (strength through unity).

My last point for this month is that our region has been influenced by many cultures, religions, and technologies. Some of these influences have been home-grown and others have come from afar. As an example, in Mexico City, the contrast is quite spectacular and the integration of these various aspects is amazing. You have Catholic churches built on top of ancient ruins; you have modern buildings in the center of what used to be a Mayan/Aztec city; and you find a mixture of different culinary dishes that have influenced the world.

All of us build on what others have created in the past, adding to the processes, knowledge, and technology. This gift left by our predecessors is what we struggle to provide for our children and new generations, in order to make their contributions to society greater and more fruitful. The Smart Card Alliance body of knowledge has been built through the contributions of many individuals from different backgrounds providing us with the level of knowledge they have acquired during their time in the industry. Some of these individuals have retired or have begun working on other project or goals. Their work, however, has contributed to the success the industry has achieved in EMV migration, government ID, healthcare, transportation, telecommunications and other applications. I invite all of you to make your contributions to our industry and our body of knowledge.

Have a wonderful month and enjoy the Holy Week!

Edgar Betts
Associate Director, Smart Card Alliance Latin America (SCALA)