Smart cards for security and transactional applications are already a huge business, but the latest technology advances promise to make the credit card-sized products even more ubiquitous.

ABI Research estimates a whopping 5.2 billion smart cards shipped in 2009, with technology advances and customer demand set to grow that number in years to come. Smart card applications include SIM cards (for mobile devices), payment and banking, government ID, and transportation among others. The total smart card market is worth about $1.7 billion, according to ABI Research's Smart Card Market Data report.

"New revenues are coming from contactless/dual-interface cards and more applications require the greater security offered by smart cards. There remains a small, but solid, memory-based market, but higher-end secure microcontroller ICs and embedded solutions are driving the new growth. As a result of this and re-stocking inventory, we forecast that IC revenues will grow nearly 14 percent in 2010," ABI Research analyst John Devlin said in a statement.

(Smart cards are sometimes referred to as "Integrated Circuit Cards," or ICCs, though not all smart cards include ICs. Contactless cards are used for applications, such as passenger identification and pre-payments. Rather than being inserted into a device for scanning like a credit card, the user only has to wave the card at the sensor to register a result, speeding up the transaction).

Gemalto heads ABI Research's list of the top smart card manufacturers with a 33.8 percent market share, while a company called Morpho (previously Sagem Orga) gained the most market share (up 1.8 percent) to grab the fourth spot on the list.

The report said that Infineon, with a 26.3 share, gets the most revenue among the integrated circuit card providers, while Samsung, in terms of unit sales, has a 34 percent share of IC volume, thanks in large part to its strong position in SIM cards.

The ABI Research report forecasts growth in terms of the volume of card sales and IC revenues.

Shoe-scanning device

Morpho Detection, a division of smart card provider Morpho, has developed some interesting scanning technology that doesn't involve smart cards, but could be a boon to travelers. The company is currently testing a shoe scanning device (SSD) it said is designed to identify "shoe-borne threats." If that sounds a bit obscure, the big benefit of the ShoeScanner is that it would allow travelers to go through security checkpoints without having to remove their shoes.

The company said the ShoeScanner is currently being tested at a pre-security area of Indianapolis International Airport

David Needle is the West Coast bureau chief at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.