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French Smart card inventor Moreno dies in Paris

Jean-Claude Coutausse/AFP

The Frenchman who invented the internationally recognised Smart card has died in Paris aged-66. Roland Moreno’s invention earned him over 100 million euros and has become an essential part of phone cards, bank cards and SIM cards worldwide. 

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In 1974, the Cairo-born Moreno designed a circuit that could store electronic data and be read and altered by a scanner. His diagram, which he patented the same year, became the basis for the Smart card, the small computer microprocessor embedded in plastic that is now found in cards around the globe.

Moreno set up his own company, Innovatron, to exploit the concept, which he claimed had come to him in a dream.

The Smart card was not Moreno’s only invention, although it was his most successful. He also created a machine, which was able distribute coins either ‘heads’ or ‘tails’ up called the Matapof and a machine which could create new words based on words already found in the dictionary.

This invention was used to create such well-known brand names as Wanadoo, Vinci and Thalès.

Moreno embodied the image of ‘nutty professor’ memorably telling a journalist for France Soir newspaper that the greatest honour he could receive would be a wax dummy in Paris’ famous Musée Grévin – the equivalent of London’s Madame Tussauds.

“It is said that God owes a lot to Jean-Sébastian Bach, I would like it said that French people owe a lot to Moreno,” he added.

At the time of his death, Moreno continued to receive royalties from the use of Innovatron's technology in French transit cards and the Vélib bike-sharing scheme in Paris.

 

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