What is a smart card?
The Smart Chip Provides Simplicity and Reliability
The Smart card chip can store large amounts of data securely in both read only and read/write formats giving the user the ability to safely add and remove data from their card as required.
The smart card chip is contained within a button or module, which is embedded into the card, which can be visible on the outside of the smart card or in the case of contactless smart cards it is inside the plastic of the card.
The gold button of a contact smart card provides a simple and reliable physical interface to external devices via individual contacts at the surface of the button.
These contacts are connected within the module via fine wires to the interface pads located on the smart card chip. The smart card chip can therefore be accessed from a wide variety of devices such as Auto Teller Machines, hand held terminals, PC card readers and even key-fob sized readers.
Smart card Memory is Highly Sophisticated
The chip itself can take many forms, from the most simple circuit or memory-only device providing limited functionality, to a highly sophisticated 'micro controller', with the ability to perform a large variety of highly complex instructions and mathematical calculations, therefore providing a high degree of security and functionality.
The memory can take many forms but basically is configured to allow secure storage and updating of data.
Today's smart card chips can store in excess of 100K bytes of data and with the rapid advances in silicon technology; this capacity is growing at a ferocious rate.
Smart Cards fall into Two Major Categories of Operation
The 'single application' card contains one piece of code written to provide one functional application (for example a mobile telephone subscriber card application), which is typically stored in the ROM of the chip. This application controls the access and operation of the card via instructions that the application can understand.
The 'multi-application' card contains a chip operating system with the ability to have more than one application on the card (for example, a transport ticketing application and a library card application). The multi-application operating system will also allow adding and removing of applications, allowing the functionality of the card to be changed after the card has been issued. Therefore greatly increasing its worth and flexibility.
Smart Card Technology is Designed to Enhance Security
Smart cards provide levels of security that are ideal in the processing of transactions, where the protection of the cardholders details is of paramount importance.
Smart cards allow the user to control the release of information contained on the smart card while also controlling who receives the information. It is in effect the cardholder's own secure personal database.
The processing power of the card also makes it possible to introduce levels of authentication that are simply not possible with magnetic stripe technology. Various cardholder authentication methods such as passwords, PIN, digital photograph or Biometric (e.g. fingerprint) applications can easily be supported.
Contact Smart cards or Contactless Smart cards?
Smart card technology has also advanced to facilitate communication between the smart card and the card reader without the need to insert the card to gain physical contact i.e. contactless transactions. Such smart cards are ideally suited to applications where the transaction time is of critical importance, for example, mass transportation systems and access control. Contactless technology also reduces wear-out of card reader hardware since there is no physical contact between card and reader. Smart cards now also exist with the ability to facilitate both contact and contactless transactions within the one card. Such smart cards are known as 'Dual Interface' smart cards.
Smart Cards Provide Benefits to Both You and the Cardholder
Upon their introduction, smart cards virtually reduced fraud to zero. Smart cards have now reached the point where they can provide a level of functionality and security to facilitate the growing needs of today's consumer and business applications, while maintaining portability in a card which can be stored in a wallet or pocket.
With the ability to securely store and update information on board the card, the smart card provides an ideal platform for the safe management of the cardholder's details (such as account information).
Smart card technology allows effective card holder profiling giving the ability to add new products and features which best suit the card holder's lifestyle, while providing the card issuer with valuable information on customer habits.
Smart cards provide great opportunities for businesses as well as consumers. With the introduction of greater and more flexible card functionality, businesses can differentiate themselves through improved Customer Relationship Management.
Added to all of the above is the ability to modify the card services (even while on line), giving the consumer the power to pick and choose the features of their own smart card as required.
Find out more about:
Smart cards enable the consumer marketers to know precisely with whom they are conducting business and to implement valuable loyalty programmes.
- Smart cards have proven to be the best technology for providing consumers with the online security, protection and portability they demand.
- Smart cards can provide three core functions: information storage and management, identification of the cardholder, and calculation (especially for encryption/decryption) which allows uses such as authentication, portable personality, portable data files, data transport and stored value.
In the know!
Find out our view on what's going on in the world of smart technology; we welcome feedback through our social media links.