German rocket scientist Helmut Gröttrup, and his associate Jürgen Dethloff, invented the automated chip card way back in 1968. The technology has found application in different walks of life today, from mobile phone SIM cards to credit and debit cards.
It is also known as Integrated Circuit Cards, they are the same shape and size of a credit card, and have RAM, ROM, and at times, even a CPU. These cards are made from PVC or ABS plastic, with the data stored on an EEPROM (Electrically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory). Smart cards are extensively used in the banking and insurance industries.
Pros of a Smart Card
Portability and the ability to store data are some of the main benefits of a smart card. Intelligent chips mounted on the card give the user a unique identification and access to information. Transactions done with the help of these cards are easier and safer than other available options.
- Smart cards in the form of debit or credit cards save time and energy when used for transactions. They are easier to carry than bulky paper notes and are safer, as they have a unique identification number or PIN (Personal Identification Number) code. The internal security programs on the cards allow access only to the user.
- Building security in schools and financial organizations are monitored with the help of smart cards, which give access to the user. This way an electronic record can be maintained of the transactions, with tracking also being possible. Security is one of the biggest benefits that these cards offer.
- The health industry uses smart cards to store the extensive health data of an individual on these small chips. These small chips, in turn, can relay that information to insurance companies or medical professionals. These health cards are extensively used as EMRs―Electronic Medical Records―and have benefited a large number of the population in emergencies.
- These cards are not only storage devices, but can also process information. With the help of smart card readers you can communicate with other computing devices. For example, the point of sale machine used by a check-out clerk can process information from the customer's card and complete the transaction.
Cons of a Smart Card
- Electronic cash can be misused if the smart card is stolen, and there is little that can be done to safeguard the consumer. New age criminals have used their know how to steal from unsuspecting individuals, who have little knowledge of safeguarding electronic data. The anonymity offered by electronic transaction plays a negative role when being misused.
- As the data is stored on an EEPROM it can be manipulated, accidentally or intentionally, with a surge of electricity or magnetic energy. The sensitivity of the microchip makes it an easy target for alteration or manipulation.
- The chip is embedded in a plastic card, and this affects the durability of the smart card. These cards, especially credit and debit cards, are generally carried around in wallets that makes them prone to cracks and tears. Damaged cards are more of a liability for the provider and user than stolen cards.
The pros and cons of smart card are weighed to an extent here, and there will be supporters and critics on both sides. Based on your needs and use, you can decide if smart card is one of the things that you must have or you can do without.