What Is Smart Card? (Learn the Secrets of Smart Card)


Smart Card? Over time, new technology is coming along the way and it will continue to rise over the years. Most people now are really prone to technology. Millennials are very aggressive to the new trends and technology so there’s no reason for them to be outdated. At the turn of the 20th century, new technological advances will born time and time again. They were an immense improvement on the old lifestyle of the people. Smart devices are becoming more established in today’s technology-consumed society as we clinch the internet of things (IoT). For this topic, we will specifically talk about What is Smart Card. We all know that it is the labor of the invention and innovation of the tech enthusiast people. Everytime there’s a new technology born, we are more likely became curious and eventually we will push ourselves to learn from this new technology.

Now, we have this Smart Card Technology in our hands now. The question there are:

What is Smart Card?

What are the different Smart Card Forms?

How Smart Card Technology Work?

What are the Major Benefit of Smart Card?

Those are some of the major questions at the back of our mind when we hear about Smart Card. We will all tackle all that question here so we can all have a solid understanding about Smart Card Technology.


What is Smart Card?

Based on the Wikipedia, Smart Card is any pocket-sized card that has embedded integrated circuits that can be either a secure microcontroller or equivalent intelligence with internal memory or a memory chip alone.

Not yet clear for you? Lets dig a little deeper on this. For us to understand more on this matter, think of a credit card. Smart Card is like a credit card in size and in shape. The usual credit card contains only a simple piece of plastic while smart card usually contains embedded microprocessor.


Smart Card looks exactly like this. It is mainly used for financial transactions, identification, as a key, etc. It is not only for that, Smart Card are also used for different purposes such as:

  • Storing Digital Cash
  • Storing a patient’s medical records
  • Generating network ID’s

What are the different Smart Card Forms?

In a nutshell, smart cards are defined according to 1). How the card data is read and written 2). The type of chip implanted within the card and its capabilities. There is a wide range of options to choose from when designing your system. In short, the different smart card forms are Contact Smart Card and Contactless Smart Card.

What is a Contact Smart Card?

Contact Smart Card are basically the cards that have physical contact. They are identified by the gold colored contact plates that are located on the top of the card. They are used by inserting them into a device that has a specifically designed slot to read them. The plate generates the energy needed for the reader to identify it. Electrical contacts located on the outside of the card connect to a card reader when the card is inserted. This connector is bonded to the encapsulated chip in the card.


A contact smart card must be inserted into a smart card reader with a direct connection to a conductive contact plate on the surface of the card (typically gold plated). Transmission of commands, data, and card status takes place over these physical contact points. To help you understand more about contact smart card, I prepare a video to for you to have a better insights.

What is a Contactless Smart Card?

Contactless Smart Card specifically refers to a card that do not need to make contact with the reader to be read or swiped in a special slot. Its embedded integrated circuits can store and sometimes process data and communicate with a terminal via radio waves. It is widely used for identification, authentication and data storage. They also provide a means of effecting business transactions in a flexible, secure, standard way with minimal human intervention.

Contactless Smart Card usually employ a radio frequency (RFID) between card and reader without physical insertion of the card. They also have the ability to securely manage, store and provide access to data on the card, perform on-card functions (e.g., encryption and mutual authentication) and interact intelligently with a contactless smart card reader. It is also available in a variety of forms – in plastic cards, watches, key fobs, documents and other handheld devices (e.g., built into mobile phones).

These cards require only close proximity to an antenna to complete a transaction. They are often used when transactions must be processed quickly or hands-free, such as on mass transit systems, where a smart card can be used without even removing it from a wallet.


For better understanding about Contactless Smart Card, take time to look a little bit on this video.

How Smart Card Technology Work?

We already know what is smart card and what are the different smart card form. Now, this is a perfect time to go deeper and know how smart card technology work.

We all know that smart card is an electronic devices with a striking resemblance to credit cards, although with a broader range of applications and higher security levels. Typical credit cards are basically all plastic. On credit cards information is stored on a magnetic strip similar to that of the magnetic tape inside audio cassettes, which makes the read/write operations relatively simple. The disadvantage of typical credit cards is that most of the information must be stored in online mainframe computer networks, where it is also verified and processed.

The microprocessor on the smart card is there for security. The host computer and card reader actually “talk” to the microprocessor. The microprocessor enforces access to the data on the card. If the host computer read and wrote the smart card’s random access memory (RAM), it would be no different than a diskette.

There is a minute difference between the card reader and the terminal. The reader is used to determine a unit that interfaces with a computer or microcontroller for all of its processing requirements. Similarly a terminal is also considered as a self- contained processing device. It can be contact type or non-contact type.

A typical smart card has three separate memory banks, two of which are ROMs (read only memory)


and one is RAM (random access memory) – 8 kilobytes of RAM, 346 kilobytes of ROM and an additional programmable ROM with 256 kilobytes of memory, controlled through a 16-bit microprocessor.

Except for the typical practice in the banking industry, smart cards may also be utilized for wireless communications, computer security systems, identification, loyalty systems, or even satellite TV access. In Germany for example, each citizen has a smart card used for health insurance. The US on the other hand, still uses the classic credit cards for banking operations, but smart cards are slowly beginning to gather up speed as well.

Some smart cards can also be used via personal computer attachments, to provide secure Internet transactions, or through mobile phones and vending machines.

What are the Major Benefit of Smart Card?

Upon using any devices, gadget or technology in general. At the back of our mind, there’s always a question bothering us. It goes like this, what can we get from using that thing, what can we benefit if we use that stuff. So now, after learning what is smart card and its dfferent form. We already know how it works and I think it is a perfect time for us to know what are the major benefits in using Smart Card.

With a greater understanding of smart cards benefits, consumers are more likely to entertain the idea of using them and transition away from magnetic stripe cards. Smart cards contain unique features that bring many benefits to both consumers and issuing organizations.

The benefits of smart cards are directly related to the volume of information and applications that are programmed for use on a card. A single contact/contactless smart card can be programmed with multiple banking credentials, medical entitlement, driver’s license/public transport entitlement, loyalty programs and club memberships to name just a few. Multi-factor and proximity authentication can and has been embedded into smart cards to increase the security of all services on the card. For example, a smart card can be programmed to only allow a contactless transaction if it is also within range of another device like a uniquely paired mobile phone. This can significantly increase the security of the smart card.

Individuals have better security and more convenience with using smart cards that perform multiple services. For example, they only need to replace one card if their wallet is lost or stolen. The data storage on a card can reduce duplication, and even provide emergency medical information.

There are also an advantage in using smart card and I breakdown this into five. Here they are:

1. Persistent, protected storage. Persistent storage is an obvious piece of the smart card, and one that makes it similar to an ordinary mag-stripe card. Smart cards have memory; how much memory depends on the application, but 4K to 32K is typical. While this is dramatically more than what can be stored on a mag-stripe card, the key to the storage is protection: You can’t just wipe the card against a reader and expect to pull everything off it. While experts have determined that a scanning electron microscope can circumvent the protection built into a smart card, this is not the kind of tool you can pick up at Radio Shack.

2. Processing power. Most smart cards have a small CPU, which means that they can do things other than parrot data stored in the card. The CPU can protect the information, for example, by requiring the user to enter a PIN code. Here’s where smart cards have a huge advantage over mag-stripe cards: the CPU can count. Get the PIN code wrong seven times, and the CPU may refuse to let you try again for an hour or a day. Or, with some applications, the CPU may simply wipe the information if you get it wrong too many times, or force you to call a customer support number to retrieve a special unlock code.

3. Packaging. While they’re not as cheap as credit cards to manufacture, in moderate quantities of 100 or so, smart cards will cost less than $10 each, making them dramatically less expensive than other authentication technologies, such as digital tokens.

The smart card can come in different form factors to work with a wide range of devices. Smart cards were originally modeled on credit cards and were built the same size. American Express’ Blue is an example of a combination smart/credit card. But smart cards are used around the world in GSM cellphones (ubiquitous in Europe and available in the U.S.). Those smart cards are cut down to a size little larger than the familiar multipad connector to fit the small handsets. Some wireless LAN adapters, such as Nokia’s C110, have small smart card readers to carry configuration data or authentication information.

4. Safe to Transport
Another advantage to having a smart card is their use in the banking industry (and many other sectors). These cards give the holder freedom to carry large sums of money around without feeling anxious about having the money stolen. In this regard, they are also safe because the cards can be easily replaced, and the person would have to know the pin number to access its stored value. This takes care of the problem with cash; once it is stolen it is nearly impossible to trace and recover it.

5. Prevent Fraud
Other benefits of using smart cards for identification can be used by governments to prevent benefits and social welfare fraud to ensure the right person is receiving the welfare benefit. Some countries are using the smart cards to identify temporary workers who have been given work permits. This has the potential to reduce immigration fraud.

Smart cards are just as easy to use as a credit or debit card, but considerable more secure. They are lightweight and easy to carry. This makes it easy to have one card to pay for parking, access to the office, and for buying lunch at the office cafeteria.

Buzzer Beater!

We are now aware the X and Os of the Smart Card. In our present situation, technology is very important as well aspire to make our life more convinient. We are so lucky that we have this kind of technology that can take our life to the next level. Smart Card is really an awesome piece of technology. I hope it will continue to develop for the years to come and we can all have the reason why we can love smart card. If you like this post, please share to your friend so that they can know what is smart card.

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