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The European smartcard market is forecast to top one billion by 2004.

According to a report by IDC, a total of 284 million units were shipped in Europe in 1999 - up 44 per cent on the previous year.

"While traditional applications such as banking and telecommunications continue to fuel steady growth for smart cards vendors, emerging applications such as mobile commerce and security are about to trigger a new phase of development for the smart cards industry," said Eric Ochs, general manager of IDC France.

"Although Europe has been the cradle of smart card technology and applications, much higher growth is building up in other regions, and by 2005, Europe will represent less than half of the worldwide smart card market," he added.

The Asian market is expected to outperform North America up until 2002, when it will then start catching up. China is seen as the most promising market.

The high penetration of mobile phones in Western European markets over the past five years has helped drive demand for smartcards. Another boost is the need for secure access and identification in e-commerce. ®

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