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Smart Card Overview

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The introduction of smart cards to personal computing is probably the most exciting change in digital history. We believe that smart cards and other systems with a security microcontroller will literally be the key to the access and exchange of digital data over the Internet. It took more than thirty years from the initial idea of two German engineers in 1967/68 to the sophisticated systems that are available today. Smart card technology came a long way since introduction in the sixties. It is hard to imagine that the little piece of silicon, embedded in a credit card size plastic already has the calculating power of computers in the seventies.

Yearly billions of cards are deployed worldwide, mainly in Europe and Asia. We think that this trend will continue and smart cards will take off in the United States. Currently millions of cards are deployed in the U.S.. But can't be long until everyone has a card in her wallet, be it for banking, healthcare, electronic ID, cell phone identifier or web access token.

Smart cards (a/k/a: chip or integrated circuit cards) are plastic cards containing a microcontroller. The embedded microcontroller transforms a credit card-sized piece of plastic into a portable, tamper-resistant computer with a calculating power of the original IBM PC. Although most smart cards still use 8-bit microcontrollers, 32-bit systems already line up for next generation cards. The same happens with the available on-card memory, which quickly becomes larger.

Typically, the only visible difference, is a set of golden electrical contact pads. For contactless smart cards however, it would be hard to notice the difference to a regular credit card. Those cards contain an antenna rather than the golden contact pads of regular smart cards.

Smart cards have diffused worldwide in the form of prepaid and reloadable payment, telephone, travel, and most recently, health care, cards. It is the latest advance in payment card technology, user authentication and access control to computer systems.

Smart cards can only be as intelligent as their designers and consumers make and use them. Card issuers, on and off-card software developers and card holders still bear responsibilities.

A vast variety of suppliers is out there. This can be overwelming and the differences between various products are often hidden behind colorful sales brochures. Furthermore the fight over industry standards is not over and doesn't contribute to clarity in this regards. This site gives you some starting points that hopefully help to get a good overview. We also offer consulting services and will help you choosing the right system for your needs.

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All rights reserved. Last modified June 9, 2017.