Category Archives: Smart Cards

ISO 7816

ISO 7816 is the accepted standard for smart cards, a credit card-sized card which is embedded with integrated circuitry that can process data. It is a family of standards that deals primarily with the interoperability of connection characteristics, physical properties, and the identifiers of the chip and the data therein.

There are eleven parts in the ISO 7816 family that are in a constant state of flux. This is because they are subject to revisions and updates. There are also physical characteristics that the 7816 specifies. These characteristics include:

  • dimensions
  • electromagnetic radiation
  • mechanical stress
  • location of the IC in the card
  • location of the magnetic strip, and
  • resistance to static electricity

These qualities are important to smart cards as they are needed to perform to their full potential without being damaged in the process.

Important Standards

  1. 7816-2
  2. This update involves the definition of the location of contacts and their dimensions on the card. It defines the purpose, electrical characteristics, and the location of each metallic contact of the card.

  3. 7816-3
  4. This standard controls the electronic signals and the transmission protocols that take place within the card. It specifies the electrical requirements of the contacts on the card.

  5. 7816-4
  6. This fourth standard defines the interchange commands for the central processing unit of the card. It allows for interoperability to occur across industries for the security and transmission of the card data. It specifies the basic commands for writing, reading, and updating data within the card.

  7. 7816-5
  8. Application identifiers and numbering systems are defined with the registry procedures that this standard deals with. It allows the card to recognize a unique registry assigned to a specific vendor.

  9. 7816-6
  10. The physical transfer of data is defined by this standard. Furthermore, it explains the operational data of the card itself. There are two protocols that are included in the card: the block protocol and the character protocol. The card may choose to follow any of the two mentioned, depending on what kind of data is being transmitted and stored. However, it may also choose not to follow any of the two.

  11. 7816-7 through 7816-11
  12. These last few standards describe the methods to maintain the database, encryption details and techniques, card management, reset signals of synchronous cards, and store personal identification.

Magnetic Card Reader

A magnetic card reader is a device that is used to access data within a magnetic card. A magnetic card is a rectangular piece of plastic that either has a magnetic stripe on its exterior or a magnetic object built within it.

Magnetic card readers can access and determine the digital data within magnetic cards through several methods. Depending on the type of reader, the user can swipe the card through the slot in the device. Other card readers require the user to hold the card near it in order for them to read the digital data.

Once the card comes into contact with the reader through one of the aforesaid methods, the reader will then carry out a set of procedures. First, a component within the reader known as the read head is activated. This component contains line drivers and signal amplifiers which are necessary in identifying the data stored in the card.

A typical magnetic card has three tracks. The head simultaneously reads the first and second tracks before proceeding to the third one. There are, however, more advanced read heads that can access all three tracks at once.

Apart from the read head, the card reader has an oscillator component. The oscillator manages the clocks that are used for the recovery section. The recovery section fastens itself onto the data rate and retrieves the data bits one by one from the data stream.

Magnetic card readers have a specific program installed within them. This program instructs the device to read the card in a linear direction or in a more complex direction. The type of movement for reading depends on the data format involved.

Smart Card Reader

A smart card reader is a device used to read data from, and write data to, a smart card. A smart card is a product usually containing information about its owner. A smart card reader generally interacts with a computer while the reader performs its processes on the card.

A smart card reader works through a number of procedures. First, the computer to which the card reader is attached should recognize the said device. This is done by installing the driver of the smart card reader into the computer.

Next, the card and the card reader have to come into contact with one another. This can be done in two ways: landing contact and friction contact. Smart card readers with landing contact features require the card to be entirely inserted into the slot. The contact then lands on the card’s microprocessor and performs the specified task. On the other hand, smart card readers with friction contact only require the card to be wiped on the slot in order for it to be read.

After the reader and the card come into contact, the reader then sends information to the card. The card does a similar process. If the pieces of information do not match, the transaction will be cancelled and no further exchange will take place. Otherwise, the reader will proceed to the process of retrieving or adding data to the card. The reader then confirms completion of the transaction and waits for the next process.

To provide added security, smart card readers incorporate a set of advanced features. These include PIN entry, secure display, and fingerprint recognition scanners.

Smart Card

A smart card is a plastic card used in various types of transactions. This card is widely popular in European countries such as Germany. The main difference of smart cards from other similar products such as credit cards is that smart cards contain a microprocessor.

The microprocessor is embedded under a gold pad in the smart card. It is usually 16 bits. This component’s main purpose is to provide security to the account information of the card holder. Once the card is inserted to the smart card reader during a specific transaction, the microprocessor is activated. The microprocessor then enforces the access level in which the card reader may retrieve data needed to complete the transaction.

Apart from the microprocessor, other components are included in the smart card. These include RAM (Random Access Memory), which can reach around 8Kb, and ROM (Read-Only Memory) with a size of 346Kb. A smart card also contains 256Kb of programmable ROM. These components function in terms of data storage and retrieval.

Smart cards are used in numerous services. Credit card companies have started to use the microprocessor technology of smart cards instead of magnetic stripe technology. Businesses providing electronic cash services give their clients smart cards for them to acquire the said services.

Tbe use of smart cards also implement the use of computer security systems. Before an individual can access a specific computer or network, he first has to insert his smart card into the systems reader to certify that he is an authorized user. Other groups that use the smart card technology include banks, government agencies, and health insurance companies.

Mondex Smartcard

The Mondex Smartcard is a service that acts as an electronic cash system or a virtual wallet. It was developed in 1990 by the National Westminster Bank of England. Later on, Mastercard International acquired controlling interest over the Mondex Smartcard.

The design of the Mondex Smartcard has been structured to provide convenience through advanced technology. Users can transfer funds to the card via electronic processes. Generally, the Mondex Smartcard can accept any amount of money, although certain Mondex Smartcards may have a specified total cash value limit. When using this type of smartcard, individuals do not have to carry money while shopping or dining. The Mondex Smartcard also lets users pay for products or services through an electronic payment system.

The Mondex Smartcard presents additional features which are not present in other similar services. It allows the user to make direct card-to-card transfers. This is in contrast to credit or debit cards that require communication with the bank to complete the transaction. The technology behind this card-to-card transfer capability is the built-in microprocessor contained in each Mondex Smartcard. To increase the card’s security, it makes use of advanced encryption methods and a tamper-proof hardware design. Transaction costs required by Mondex Smartcards are relatively lower. This is because it is capable of performing offline transactions and does not require expensive network communications.

The Mondex Smartcard is supported by numerous banks. Some of these banks include the National Bank of Canada, Canada Trust, Toronto Dominion Bank, and Bank of Montreal. A number of newer banks are also starting to include the Mondex Smartcard in their services.