Smart Cards: All You Need To Know About Them And Their Uses


You may have all heard about a smart card, especially for its shop now pay later feature, but here is a little in-depth about smartcards that you may not have known. A smart card, also known as a chip card or integrated circuit card/chip (ICC), is a physical card that is an electronic authorization device. It has an embedded integrated chip that acts as a security token. The size of smart cards is about the same as a driver’s license or credit card, and they are usually made from metal or plastic, although some are paper.

They include a pattern of metal contacts that connect electrically to the internal chip by direct physical contact, and they are also called chip and PIN cards. Some smart cards are contactless and secure through a short-range wireless connectivity standard such as radio-frequency identification or near-field communication. At the same time, others are both chip and PIN and contactless.

In a smart card, the chip can be either a secure microcontroller, an equivalent intelligence chip with internal memory, or an embedded memory chip. These cards are capable of storing vast amounts of information. The in-memory information in these devices is protected with encryption to make them resistant to tampering. A microcontroller chip on such a card can both perform on-card processing functions and manipulate data within the chip’s memory.

The contact smart card or chip and PIN card must be inserted into a smart card reader and connected directly to a conductive contact plate on its surface, typically gold-plated. These physical contact points transmit commands, data, and card status.

All that the contactless card requires is proximity to the reader. The reader and the card have antennas that communicate with this contactless link over radio frequencies. This electromagnetic signal also powers the internal chip of many contactless cards.

Dual-interface cards and hybrid cards are two additional categories of cards. Two chips are used in a hybrid card, one with a contact interface and one with a contactless interface, though they are not connected. A dual interface card has a single chip with contact and contactless interfaces. With these dual-interface cards, it can be possible to access the same chip using either a contact or contactless interface with a higher level of security.

Here are a couple of applications for smart cards:

  1. Banking and Retail

ATM, credit and debit cards, especially credit card payments, where you can pay later, are the most common uses of smart cards. Many of these smart cards are chip and PIN and require customers to supply a PIN of four to six digits. Others are known as chip and signature, needing a signature instead for verification.

  1. Healthcare

Smart cards assist with maintaining the efficiency of patient care and privacy safeguard, with all the increase in health care data. The cards allow medical facilities to store information safely for a patient’s medical history. It also helps to access the data instantly and update it if required to help reduce health care fraud, whereas, in banking, you can check credit statuses. In addition, instant patient verification provides immediate insurance processing. Moreover, smart cards facilitate government initiatives, such as organ donation programs.

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