What is a Smart Card?

Smart cards are used by many people in their day-to-day life. In spite them being used so frequently, there are many who are not even aware of what they are. In this article, we give you some information on smart cards...
Techspirited Staff
A smart card―also referred to as an integrated card or chip card―is a pocket-sized card embedded with circuits, which helps in the processing of data. The card matches a credit card in size and shape, but its interior is completely different. If it is going to be used as a memory card, then it consists of an EEPROM circuit. Some cards also come with internal memory, such as ROM and RAM, and in some cases, even a CPU. These cards are referred to as microprocessor cards, because they consist of microprocessor components and chips. These microprocessors are placed under a gold contact pad on one side of the card. The cards are made of PVC or ABS plastic. To avoid misuse like counterfeiting, these cards come equipped with certain security measures, like holograms.

How Does a Smart Card Work?

Some cards contain applications which are programmed to perform specific functions that can be updated in the future. If designed to perform some particular function, they are usually embedded with proprietary operating systems. Most smart cards are designed to perform more than one function. For this purpose, MULTOS or JavaCard operating systems are most preferred. These cards are re-loadable with most applications available, and are also disposable. They are provided with attachments to a computer in order to authorize the user. In order for the card to be read, it has to be inserted in the slot provided. A standard interface has been set in place to enable the data of a smart card to be read by PC hardware. This interface has been defined by the PC/SC WorkGroup.

Pros and Cons
These cards can be used for identification and data storage. Smart cards affect the business in a positive way, by making transactions secure, flexible, and without much intervention by humans. But, at times, the data can be deleted or removed accidentally by magnetic or electrical means. In some cases, they also provide strong authentication, for logging on to laptops and computer data, by the process of encryption.

Smart cards can be used in hospitals, GSM mobiles, DIRECTV, satellite receivers, credit cards, electronic cash, wireless communication, computer security systems, government identification, Internet banking, etc. In hospitals, these cards can be used to know a particular patient's health insurance carrier, and to transfer information from a microchip to an admittance sheet. With the help of this card, billing is done faster, which enables tests to be conducted sooner. You can also use these cards for the purchase of gasoline from a gas station. This card can be used to prove the identity of the user, while banking online. With these cards, you can also make electronic purchases on the web.

The cost of production of each card and the whole process of installing a system compatible to its usage is expensive. There are chances of the smart card being stolen or lost. At times, the information programmed in a smart card is inaccurate. It can be hacked into, or even be affected by computer viruses. People who are not techno savvy may face difficulties while using it.