What is a Smart Card?

What is a Smart Card?

smart card

What is a Smart Card?

Smart cards use microprocessors and memory chips to store data, passwords, credentials, and digital certificates. They also can be used as security tokens or to supplement disk encryption systems.

Many organizations deploy smart cards to support secure log-on, identity verification, and access control systems. They are also useful for e-commerce transactions, campus IDs, and loyalty and health care card implementations.


Smart cards are an important tool for organizations of all sizes that need to securely store data. They look like a credit card, but have an embedded integrated chip that acts as a security token. This chip is tamper resistant and uses encryption to protect in-memory information. It also has microprocessor capabilities, making it a more secure option than a magnetic stripe.

Smart card technology has many applications, including credit cards, smart card manufacturer ATMs, fuel cards, mobile phone SIMs, and authorization cards for pay television. They can also provide high-security identification and access control. They can even help to prevent fraud by enabling multiple levels of authentication.

The chip inside a smart card can be programmed to execute complex cryptographic algorithms, allowing for the computation of values such as one-time passwords. It can also be configured to support National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) standards for personal identity verification, which are a key part of protecting sensitive data in the face of increasing identity theft.

The chip in a smart card can also act as an authenticator for online transactions. It can verify the user’s identity, and if the card is used with a unique paired device, it can also confirm that the user is at a particular location. This can significantly reduce the incidence of fraudulent transactions.

Ease of use

Smart cards use a microprocessor chip or embedded memory to exchange information with card readers and other systems over a serial interface. The chips are tamper-resistant and secure, and they have built-in encryption to protect the data stored on them. The card reader passes the data to its intended destination, which is usually a payment or authentication system.

Smart cards come in different forms and have a number of functions, including credit card, debit card, membership cards, mobile phone SIMs, authorization cards for pay television and household utility pre-payment cards. They can also act as security tokens, storing and displaying One-Time Passwords for secure online transactions. They can even serve as representations of national identity, providing a single point of entry for multiple services that were previously difficult to synchronize.

A smart card can be inserted into a contact pad or, more commonly, communicate with the reader through its built-in antenna. Contactless smart cards, on the other hand, can be powered by proximity to the reader, requiring no physical contact. In either case, the smart card must have a basic operating system to manage its own microprocessor and memory. This is a key element to securing the cards against malicious attacks. Some smart cards have specialized cryptographic hardware that supports algorithms such as RSA and digital signatures. These are mainly used for secure identification and single sign-on.


Smart cards are a convenient way to store data in a secure environment. They are flexible and can serve multiple functions, including a payment card, security token, authentication device, storage of digital certificates and credentials, and sensitive information encryption. They are also highly reliable, providing a level of functionality and security not possible with traditional machine-readable cards.

Many governments and corporations are using smart card technology to protect information. For example, a driver’s license with a built-in chip can help police identify suspects quickly. Smart cards are also used to verify identity and reduce fraud in online transactions. They can also be used as electronic keys to access a building or computer network.

Complex Cards use a dual interface, supporting both contact (via a keypad as defined by ISO/IEC 7816) and contactless technologies (using the ISO/IEC 14443 standard). They can be battery-operated or battery-free and have their own microprocessor that handles memory allocation. They are also more flexible than standard smart cards, allowing them to be personalized by the same machines and processes that produce contact-type smart cards.

These features make it easier to integrate smart cards into existing systems. For example, fingerprint templates can be stored on the card, rather than a central database, which improves privacy in a single sign-on system that uses biometrics for identification. This also saves time, since the bearer doesn’t need to present his or her profile to each new supplier.


Smart cards can be used for a variety of purposes including security, authentication, payment and data storage. They incorporate a microprocessor chip and are often encrypted smart card manufacturer to protect the card’s information from unauthorised access. They also use RFID induction technology to communicate with readers, which reduces power consumption and allows the cards to be read at a distance.

Smart card technology can help improve privacy by protecting logins, encrypting hard drives, and digitally signing email. However, it’s important to remember that the protection offered by a smart card is not absolute. A hacker can still capture the card’s private information if it has been physically stolen.

The cost of a smart card depends on its complexity and features. The more complex a card, the higher its cost will be. However, this is usually a reflection of the amount of functionality it offers. For example, a smart card with a keyboard can be more expensive than one without.

Smart cards are an ideal solution for e-commerce transactions, providing enhanced security for card-present (CP) payments and reducing fraud. They can be used for secure online banking, credit and debit cards, reloadable electronic wallets, and as an alternative to mobile phones. They can be customized with personal data that identifies the bearer. This can be useful for a number of reasons, from enabling service suppliers to provide tailored services to preventing identity theft.