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Smart, very smart
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Smart, very smart

Smart CardsAt a time when cards are doing most things, newer technologies are enabling it to do 'Comfortable business' as never before. It's the turn of Smart Cards (SC) to come in handy, making lives so much more comfortable.

SC offers a wide scope in usage and is quite unlike debit and credit cards. They store several hundred times more data than that of any magnetic striped card within the electronic microchip embedded in them. This make SCs different from other cards as its huge data can be processed both online and offline.

Smart Card  readerSCs used for application in sectors like transport, health and similar areas, generally store information of the users. A monetary value is stored in the card in electronic form and the value is deducted from the card at the time of buying products and services.

It functions as a memory device when embedded with an IC. When embedded with microprocessors, it can function as a processor, carrying out multiple functions such as encryption, advanced security mechanism, data processing and calculations. Most stored-value cards are processor cards.

SCs can be classified into two categories-Contact (CSC) and Contact-less (CLSC). CSCs have to be inserted into smart card reader/terminal for data transfer/access. CLSCs do not need a physical contact with the reader. It is just held near a reader. CLSCs are classified based on the distance from which they can be read. Electromagnetic signal emitted by the reader facilitates data access.

There are readers and terminals, which read these cards. These can be wireless and networked or standalone hand-held devices. The terminal is able to debit the chip once the communication begins. New devices similar to a floppy disk allow SCs to be read by a PC disk drive. An inter-operable and multi-platform Application Programming Interface (API) is critical for smart cards to carry out diverse functions.

Where does the SC act smart?
There are a number of applications for smart card technology for transactions. Some of the possible areas in which SCs have been implemented around the globe are:

Retail purchases: Customers can pay for products and record purchases.
Electronic purse: SCs work as that of debit cards.
Government services: SC can be used where a state office transfers a set of benefits, like subsidised ration, into a card, thereby reducing fraud and eliminating the printing and distribution costs.
Public transportation: Stored-value smart cards can be used for collection of fare for trains, buses and taxis.
Telecom: SCs can be used to operate payphones and cellular phones.
Health care: SCs can store the medical history of a person. Smart Cards  will have wide usage in the coming years

Security wise, SCs are a far safer than magnetic striped cards. SCs incorporate encryption and authentication technologies that can implement issuer and user's requirements for the highest degree of security. Content and data can be securely transferred via wired and wireless networks. Considering the dramatic improvement of SCs and its large scale application, its use is likely to rise rapidly. At present North America accounts for the largest number of smart card users, but the Asian region is making inroads into its use. Soon a single card will suffice to meet most of our requirements. A smart way to solve problems!

Source: CIOL

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