Beyond the Plastic: The Revolution of Smart Card Technology

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The Smartcard phenomenon is among the most significant realizations in the information technology world today. Smart cards are small, portable cards with implanted integrated paths. Usually, these cards are plastic. Smart cards contain an array of metal contacts that are in connection to the internal chip. Some other types of cards are contactless, while there are those that are a combination of the two features. Smart cards offer individual identification, security verification, application processing and storage of data. Applications consist of services offered to the various fields, such as computer security, ID, public transit, financial sectors, the healthcare field, mobile phone Sims, and schools. They are used in IT as mobile incorporated devices with capabilities of data storage and dispensation.

             They integrate effective usage with fast and easy access to data, which facilitates their employment in public security structures.  Encryption is used for protected and authentic data communication amid card holders and databanks through wide-spread protocols.  Systems that run smart cards are developed on a Java platform with the use of object-oriented design. They contain barcodes, which are a unique series of alternating dark and light strips that are usually read by optical scanners. The self-containment of smart cards renders them resistant to attack because they don't require to be contingent on possibly susceptible outside resources.

Smart Card Design

             During the design and development of smart cards, some elements are put into consideration, to evade issues and boost outcomes in the long run.  These elements include the type of data that will be stored and ways in which this data is going to be protected and shared.  Also, it is vital that the system is not overrun with too many features, to begin with, as this can cause confusion to the smart card users, or bring about hitches in the management of the cards (Rankl & Effing, 2004). While the use of smart cards necessitates cautious planning and consideration, its benefits are well worth the work. Smart cards, with their safe components, are standard for identity and device verification, secure trades, and the safeguarding of information and property (Singh et al., 2017).

Characteristics of a Smartcard

§ It stays in communication with peripheral facilities They have dimensions that are parallel to those of credit cards, which is ID-1. These cards are usually 85.60 by 53.98 millimeters.  They may also be ID-000, which is nominally 25 by 15 millimeters, which are commonly used in SIM cards. Both of these are 0.76 millimeters thick.

§ Has resilient security and offers safety facilities, for instance, protection of in-memory data.

§ Smart cards are managed by an administration system, that is responsible for the secure interchange of data and set up. The system controls updates on card blacklisting as well as application data.

§ via card reading devices, like ATMs

§ They are typically made of plastic, generally polyvinyl chloride. However, they are other those made from polyesters that are based on polyethylene-terephthalate, polycarbonate, or acrylonitrile butadiene styrene.

How Smart Cards work

             Smart cards are a comprehensive system on a chip, that is, they have a processing unit as well as memory and hence can execute calculations without the system that they would be in communication with. Smart cards can be microprocessor cards or memory cards.  Memory cards usually govern how their memory is inscribed and read, while microprocessor cards run permitted applications that are coded securely, to ensure prevention of external access of the memory space. The types of processors differ extensively, though the most common currently are ARM and MIPS. These are based on 32-bit RISC architecture microcontrollers that support the use of Java Virtual Machine locally, to facilitate secure application development (Chien et al., 2002).

            Tasks that relate to encryption and decryption are transferred through the card and handled out of the system that is using the card.  It offers software and physical layer of separation and employs a secure hardware space to execute delicate tasks. It ensures fraud starts are not able to re-claim sensitive data. The card links to a reader with immediate contact, or by use of remote, non-contact radio frequencies. The frequency ID is exclusive in every smart card application and is used as a carrier for digital data communication. Smart card communications are also grounded in Carrier Sensing Collision detection technology protocols that sense the carrier frequency to match its speed.  When two-way communications are used collisions are detected and retransmission performed based on the priority of direction. Usually, receive is higher than transmit because you already know what you are carrying. Smart Cards cannot provide GPS services, which require a power source to support continuous operation not found on any current smart cards, but an audit trail can be used for tracking where an individual uses their card.

Smart Card Security

             Security is fundamental in the world of smartcard technology, as smart cards can be manipulated and used for fraud and identity theft, among other ills. Technology and security are intensely interconnected (Taherdoost, Sahibuddin, & Jalaliyoon, 2011). Crackers have found sophisticated methods of getting access to purportedly secure data on cards, which has substantially increased the risk of these cards to be used to store monetary values. Therefore, the provision of resources that will ensure only secure access to smart cards is of absolute importance. To protect cards from unauthorized access, user authentication and access control are vital (Markantonakis et al., 2007). This is where biometric systems and access pins apply.


             Biometric technologies have been defined as digital techniques of authenticating a living individual's identity, grounded on inimitable features or behavior-based features of an individual. Biometrics offer highly secure and convenient verification of individuals as these can't be appropriated or disremembered and are very hard to counterfeit (Tunstall, 2017). Biometric technologies are a simple method of using programmed approaches of ascertaining and validating the identity of individuals (Alliance, 2011). The collective use of smart cards and biometrics has been widely accepted over the past two years. Though the smart cards may be significantly secure, several smart card providers recognize the benefits that biometrics can bring to smart cards by creating a link between the card and the card owner.

            Combining smart card technology with biometrics offers a way of creating an affirmative tie between the smart card and the cardholder hence allowing sturdy confirmation as well as verification of the identity of the individual holding the card (Park, Lee, Kim, & Park, 2016). Biometric systems hold an upper hand, with their privacy-friendly medium of carrying its templates (Cards, 2002).  Contrast can locally be made, devoid of the need for linking to a databank of biometric identifiers. This is because of the biometric template stored on the smart card.  Since all biometric toning occurs using templates, storage of the whole biometric image information on the smart card is needless. Also, with the state-of-the-art safe card micro-controllers, adequate on-card dispensation power and storage are present to accomplish the biometric matching straight away within the logic of the smart card as opposed to inside of the device doing the reading. This biometric match-on-card methodology can deliver a more remote and safe identity authentication system.


            The PIN property is also a critical security feature in smart card technology. Credit card transactions are a lot more secure with the use of pins, as compared to the traditional magnetic stripe transactions that were previously used. After acquiring a smartcard, a one-time code is created that moves between a card's chip and a card reader. The data is useless except to the parties involved (Messerges et al., 2002). A pin is a verification feature that outlines a personal identification number for a particular smart card. The default pin is usually created on the card using java code, and can only be changed by the provider and the user to a personalized pin.  It is a secure method with the user and password features that are used as confirmation properties that identify a user and link them to the smart card's PIN (Liao & Wang, 2009). For one to set these properties, they should be aware of the login name and password of the user.

            Even better systems exist where a default confirmation mechanism of the PIN is used, with a programme that corroborates the authenticity of the PIN. This programme reads the user and password details on the card and compares them to the user's system password databank. If the password on the smart card is a match, it gives the user access to the application. This technology ensures that only the authorized persons can access a particular card. While traditional magnetic stripe credit cards are easily cloned, Chip-and-PIN credit cards are nearly impossible to duplicate.

Implementation of Smartcard

Start-up costs and Maintenance of Smart Cards. 

Acquiring smart cards can either entail making them, or paying an external company to prepare them for you. On a large scale, this can be quite costly.  However, in small-scale, acquiring a single card can usually cost between 2 USD and 10 USD. Costs vary with the type of chips present in the card. Chips that provide higher capacity and more complex capabilities tend to cost more.  Also, costs decrease as the volume of cards increases. Smartcards also have running costs and costs that accompany the maintenance of the card and the management system that helps to maintain these cards. Support of smart cards is done through the use of smart card management systems (Chen, 2000). This is done all through the card's life cycle. Generally, smart card management systems are usually employed as software applications. 

            The management systems ensure that there is no interruption of services during the use of the card. The security requirements of the systems are specially maintained to the letter since they support security credentials that authenticate holders of smart cards. The systems also ensure that cards can change in state seamlessly, for example, a card can be blocked, revoked or issued (Yacoob, 2003). The card provides that simultaneous access of cards can be accomplished at ease. Chips in the smart card also ensure that the cards are secure, and that electronic identity is retained, irrespective of their location of use. The chip also ensures that there is continued access control to relevant devices or facilities and that cardholders are comfortable with services provided by these cards.

Future Trends of Smart card Technology

Smart cards are likely to bring up some future trends, including the dual-interface feature and contactless smart card feature (Mohammed et al., 2004). These are anticipated to annex as a backbone to smart card facilities in the coming future. Non-contact cards are presently highly used in the financial services sector. The cards use microcontrollers because of the high-security levels plus dependability that is offered by these components. As several nations and financial institutions start adopting the use of smart cards, the greater abilities provided by dual-interface cards and contactless cards are receiving acknowledgment by key monetary organizations, which promotes the employment of microcontroller-based smart cards (Furletti, 2002). In addition, the adoption of smartcards with chips that are able to store multiple applications will be introduced. This is in the hope of encouraging acceptance of smartcard use.


            The smart card technology, with its ability to verify identification as well as store and update information, has helped to solve problems that are beyond those of the financial sector.  The implementation of smart cards is just the beginning of what could be achieved with the smart card technology. Smart cards have improved security in general, by increasing the effectiveness of a cashless society, and by improving the functionality of various systems. However, smart cards will have to overcome barriers such as uncertain network impacts and high card-reader costs before they gain a more permanent acceptance. 


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September 11, 2023


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