Smart cards are plastic cards similar in size of credit cards that are stamped an integrated circuit. This circuit can be single report or contain a microprocessor (CPU) with an operating system that allows a variety of tasks including:

Smart Cards


  • Storing data.

  • Encrypting data.

  • Reading and writing data, such as a computer.

As a mechanism for access control, smart cards make the personal and business data accessible only to appropriate users. Smart cards ensure portability, security, and reliability in the data.

The incorporation of an integrated circuit offers three new elements that can favor its widespread use:


Integration densities and memory controllers that are achieved today can offer a new range of possibilities and functions resulting in market expansion and a new means of information exchange.

Programmable Logic

The smart card incorporates the power of computers, including logic and control functions that apply to business, along with advanced security features and new applications.

  1. Direct interface for electronic communications.

  1. The communications are constantly growing. Each new development provides a new field in which smart cards can be applied.

  1. The physical, electrical, format commands, and everything about cards is specified in ISO 7816.

The most important features of smart cards are:

  1. Intelligence: It can store any kind of information, and is autonomous in decision-making at the time of transaction.

  1. Uses password or PIN: To use it, you must type a personal identification number and you can also incorporate more advanced technology like biometric identification technology, fingerprint, or retina reading.

  1. Update quotas: After the expiry of the total quota of the smart card, you can reload a new quota.

Evolution of smart cards

Evolution of smart cards

The origin of the smart card was in Europe in the early 70's and that card was similar to the bank debit card or credit card used today.

The smart card is a plastic similar to a credit card where there is a processor (microchip) inserted in the plastic, which stores information enabling greater efficiency in the system of traditional credit cards as agility and innovating and expanding security service for the user.

It was in the early 90s when the smart card took-off to be incorporated in GSM mobile phones. GSM Phase 1 required very little memory capacity.

Smart cards were used in bulk at the beginning of GSM telephony. It started directly with GSM Phase 2 in September 1995 using cards with 8K of memory. In late 1997 appeared 16K cards, some of which have already implemented GSM Phase 2 + SIM system.

The objective of the smart card is to offer customers a service with many more benefits to facilitate your daily development. This card is also called "BUSINESS NET" that allows the holder to purchase goods and services within a network of entities.

In the field of electronic purse begins to take off in 1997 with the appearance of the wallet VisaCash, proprietary version Visa implemented by Spain. By midyear other purse began following the European standard CEN WG10.

While prototypes exist for several years before, until late 1999 did not go to market in contact less cards in bulk, mainly due to the difficulties in integrating the antenna into the card. Its use is basically to electronic purse and access control.

In recent years, the smart card industry has grown and the range of services offered by them each day is multiplied in part driven by new possibilities offered by the smart card against conventional cards:

  1. Allows the use of a single card for various different applications.
  2. Generate lower costs per transaction than conventional plastic cards. The card cost is also reduced mainly due to longer life of the card as it can be updated.
  3. Smart cards allow a high degree of security of transactions conducted with them compared to conventional cards.

Structure of smart cards

A smart card contains a microprocessor, 8 Bytes with CPU, RAM and ROM. Its form of storage may be EPROM or EEPROM. ROM program consists of an operating system that manages the allocation of memory storage, protection of accesses and manages communications. The internal communication path between the elements (BUS) is total mind inaccessible from outside the same silicon chip so the only way to communicate this totally under control of operating system and there is no way to enter commands disabled false or requirements that may surprise security policies.

Smart cards rely on three key areas

  1. Open Area: Contains information that is not confidential. (the bearer's name and address).
  2. Work Zone: Contains confidential information. (Applications bank: credit quota available, the number of transactions allowed in a period of time).
  3. Secret Areas: The information is absolutely confidential. The contents of these areas are not fully available to the cardholder, nor is it known by the entity that issues or who makes it.

Operation of smart cards

The cards are activated when introduced into a card reader. A metal contact, or even a laser reading, as in a CD-ROM, allowing the transfer of information between the reader and the card, now begin to be commercial houses whose products allow you to read a smart card from the personal computer.

The smart card communications are governed by the ISO 7816 / 3; the data transfer rate is 9600 baud in asynchronous mode.

Classes or types of cards

  1. Contact Smart Cards: These cards are the ones that need to be inserted into a smart reader terminal through contacts that can be read, there are two types of contact smart card: The synchronous and asynchronous.
  2. Synchronous Smart Cards: These are only memory cards and presentation of this smart card and its use is mainly concentrated in prepaid cards to make phone calls. These cards contain a memory chip that is generally used for data storage within this category there are two types of card: Free Memory: It has no mechanisms for protecting access to information. Protected memory, that code and steps required prior to access to information. These cards are disposable preloaded with an amount or value decreases as they are used, once the amount has just become disposable, is used internationally for the payment of tolls, public telephones, vending machines and entertainment.
  3. Asynchronous cards: They are microprocessor smart cards, this is the real smart card is the same size and thickness of a credit card and the same thickness can have a magnetic stripe on the back. Inside the plastic is an electronic element with the RAM, ROM and EEPROM on the same chip
  4. Contactless Smart Cards: They are similar to contact regarding what they can do and its functions but use different transmission protocols and physical layer logic, but not using galvanic contact inductive interface, middle distance can be without being fed into a terminal intelligent reader. One advantage is that this card is that since there are no external contacts with the card, this is more resistant to external elements such as dirt.

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