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.
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
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.
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!