Introduction to Smart Card

What is a Smart Card?

A smart card is just – “a small chip integrated inside a plastic card”. It is that one which can participate in an automated electronic transaction.

It can also be defined as: “Smart cards are portable data cards, which should communicate with an external device to gain access to a display device or a network”. Thus, they can be plugged into a card reader (also referred as card terminal), or they can operate using radio frequencies.

The main purpose of the card lies in the security. It stores data’s securely and can host/run a wide range of security algorithms and functions. Since the card cannot be forged or easily copied, it is mainly used for the security purposes. Smart card chips tend to be very small and so there is always a limit to what functionality and resources can be crammed in.

The several types of cards which come under the category of Smart card are:

  • Magnetic Stripe Cards
  • Chip Cards
  • Microprocessor Chip Cards
  • RFID’s
  • Smart Tokens and so on.

Components of Smart card

The components of a Smart card are:

  • Small Microprocessor chip
  • Plastic card
  • CPU
  • 3 Types of memory
  • Interconnecting circuit

As discussed above, the Smart card will be having a small microprocessor chip inside a plastic card. It also has a CPU and 3-types of memory as well as the interconnecting circuitry. But, the device has no clock or in-built power supply. The three types of memory are: RAM, ROM and EEPROM.

RAM:The RAM is a temporary storage area for the chip. When the supply cuts, the temporary datas will be automatically erased.

ROM: The Read Only Memory (ROM) is some times referred to as the chip mask. The contents of the ROM are set/written by the card manufacturer and can only be read by the user.

EEPROM/FLASH MEMORY: Electrically Erasable Programmable Read Only Memory (EEPROM) is very useful, as it can be programmed by the user, and does not lose its contents when the power is removed i.e. it is non-volatile. Another type of storage is known as flash memory. This is well known for memory sticks, but has been less commonly used for smart cards.


Applications of Smart cards

Smart cards are used in many current and real-world systems. It can be also used for many future applications. In fact the capability and numbers of cards are being increasing in just about all areas of use. Some of the growing applications include:

– Mobile Telephony
– Banking (Master cards and Visa cards)
– Transport
– Identity Cards/Passports
– Entitlement cards/Health cards
– Physical Access control
– IT access control
– Satellite TV

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