Java Card Forum

The Java Card Forum is an industry association of companies from the smart card, secure operating system and secure silicon industry, working together to promote and develop Java as the preferred programming language for multi-application smart cards, secure devices and other execution environments.

JCF President shares his insights into the success of Java Card over the last 25 years & plans for the future

A lot has been achieved over 25 years and Java Card is the leading platform for secure elements with billions of devices issued each year. Why do you think Java Card has been so successful?

What brought Java Card to the fore in the late 90s is interoperability of the applications running on the smart cards, at a time where interoperability was a pain point for SIM cards, as well as a means to install and host several applications concurrently, even post issuance.  Moreover, Java Card offered a strong, secure environment for applications, and Java Card was quickly able to address major markets where the highest possible level of security is required, such as SIM cards, payment cards, passports or identity cards. All this was recognised rapidly by the market, and the number of Java Cards in 2004, seven years after the Java Card Forum was created, was already reaching a billion smart cards per year. 

There are several major benefits of Java Card:

  • Application interoperability, with one single solution in terms of coding, testing, certification and executing on different vendor platforms 
  • Hardware independence, with the ability to support any type of secure element, such as removable smart cards, embedded secure elements or integrated, so that vendors can reuse the sample Java Card platform for different markets and products 
  • Market segment independence, as the same Java Card platform can be deployed to host payment, identity, telecommunications or IoT applications
  • Perfect fit for secure element requirements, in terms of security, footprint, or performance
    • Recognition and very close alignment with the technology evolution and standardisation in various major standard organisations referencing Java Card
    • A high degree of backward compatibility of the specifications – continuity of product portfolios

How was the Java Card Forum instrumental for the success of Java Card?

Early on, the pioneers of Java Card realised that this technology was a major shift that required standardisation to ensure interoperability. They decided to join efforts within a newly created Java Card Forum and provide recommendations to the owner of the Java language – at that time Sun – for the maintenance and evolution of the Java Card technology. 

The Java Card Forum is the key place and indispensable environment where Java Card technology is defined and developed, through constant interaction between Java Card vendors and Oracle (owner of the specification and Java Card technology). 

The Java Card Forum is an open Forum where recommendations are discussed to influence the future features of Java Card and shape the evolution of Java Card, making it the major platform for smart cards.

What is the outlook of Java Card from a Java Card Forum perspective?  

We see some evolution on two major levels, due to the increasing demand for security solutions. 

Some traditional applications, such as the SIM cards, payment cards or identity cards, although present with a bright future, are also increasingly being deployed onto the mobile phone or wearable devices, such as connected watches. In these devices, Java Card is now running on the soldered embedded secure element, or even integrated onto the system-on-chip. This motivates us to work on new features, such as new communications channels and protocols, improved power management with, for example, the support of suspend and resume, as well as new memory management capabilities or the ability to communicate with sensors, such as fingerprint readers, directly from the Java Card applet.

Moreover, we see new applications that can benefit from Java Card’s unique features, for example, Internet-of-Things devices or gateways, which are bound to rise exponentially with 5G and massive IoT. Here again, efficient power management, communication with external sensors, as well as lightweight cryptographic or communication protocols with the cloud, is key.

In addition, cryptographic agility is also a big item on the Java Card Forum agenda, initially to address the support of post-quantum cryptography, but more generally to make sure the security can be updated post-issuance should the need arise.

If companies are interested in joining the Java Card Forum, how would they go about it?

The Java Card Forum is an open Forum and there is only one condition – that you have to be an Oracle licencee. Then you can apply for membership and help shape the future of Java Card. We look forward to welcoming you. [Find out more about membership here.]

You can see this interview in video format below:

Author: Karen B

Karen has been working in the high-tech industry for over 20 years covering system support, event management, corporate publishing and secretariat support for special interest groups. As well as running the UK office, she is the Marketing & Operations Secretariat for the Java Card Forum. She is currently based in the UK.

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