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Lalit Agarwal and V. GuruprasadSmart cards improve the convenience and security of any transaction. The card provides tamperproof storage of user and account identity, vital components of system security for the exchange of data throughout virtually any type of network. The Smart cards protect against a full range of security threats. Technological advancements, such as the development of smart cities, blockchain, biometric technology, etc., are driving the smart card market across the globe. The growing smart city initiatives are encouraging several public & private companies to develop smart connected solutions to efficiently optimize available resources and effectively manage operations and services. Smart cities have been fueling the demand for digital payments in sectors including transportation, retail, government, etc., creating a huge demand for smart cards. Several companies in the smart card market have run several successful trials of the fingerprint biometric technology within smart cards in countries including Japan, Cyprus, the U.S., Mexico, the UK, South Africa, etc., creating more opportunities for industry players. The rising number of financial frauds is leading to the need for a secure, personalized, and convenient payment solution. The integration of biometric technology into smart cards with a microprocessor and contactless interface will eliminate the need for PINs, assuring safer transactions through fingerprint authentication.


What is a Smart Card?

A smart card, typically a type of chip card, is a plastic card that contains an embedded computer chip–either a memory or microprocessor type–that stores and transacts data. This data is usually associated with either value, information, or both and is stored and processed within the card’s chip.

Key Applications:

  • Charge cards for credit purchases
  • Record keeping
  • Banking
  • Healthcare Informatics
  • Enterprise and Network Security
  • Physical Access

In this article we unveil the various aspects of Smart Cards as it makes a billion-dollar entry in the global market. Traversing to the Know-How of smart cards – V. Guruprasad | Head, Sales & Business Development, Digital Security Solutions | Infineon India and Lalit Agarwal, Sales head, South Asia, Secure Issuance, HID Global kens on what you want to know about Smart Cards. Here is what we found out:

Smart Card – Key Features

V.G. : Smartcards are typically credit-card sized (ISO7816 ID-1 form factor) card that provide ‘convenient and secured’ means for information storage and processing. It is a plastic card with printed layers and security IC chip on board. The chip on a smart card can be either a microcontroller or a memory chip. Smart cards are designed to be tamperresistant and use encryption to provide protection for inmemory information. Those cards with microcontroller chips can perform on-card processing functions and can read and write information in the chip’s memory. Certified security chips allow storage of sensitive information in the card itself, so that these are not threatened by mass attacks against backend systems.

The information stored on the microcontroller can vary depending on the system design. With increased internet connectivity more and more data will be stored on the cloud. As big data is transferred and stored remotely, it is extremely important to design the system securely. In addition to the simple data storage media, the chip will then act rather as a key to allow secured proceeding and access of data.

L.A. : Smart cards are physical cards with built-in microprocessors that act as security tokens; these can either be contact type or contactless. Smart cards in the form of credit/debit or SIM cards are the most commonly used cards in the world.

Typically, these cards are connected to a reader through direct physical contact or wireless connectivity standards such as radio frequency identification or near-field communication. In terms of advantages, smart cards are secure and provide a higher level of security. The data stored on smart cards can’t be easily altered or deleted. Similarly, compared to magnetic stripe cards smart cards are not easily affected by electronic interference and magnetic fields.

How It Works?

L.A.: Compared to contact smart cards, contactless smart cards have an invisible chip where data is stored. Its embedded antenna allows for the cards to read easily within close proximity to a reader and doesn’t require direct physical contact. These cards are used for applications like access control, payments etc.

V.G: Contactless smart card works on the principle of RF communication between card and contactless reader. Both power supply and communication signals are derived from the RF field from the reader. As such, the communication can be done “through air” at short distance (typically 3-5cm gap).

For example, in a transport application, commuter can just tap his contactless card on the gantry reader, to pay for the train ride. Thus providing a fast and convenience experience in the process.

Privacy & Security?

V.G. : Key functionalities of a secured IC on Smart cards, which acts as a so-called trust anchor, are:

Data Authenticity

  • Consumer of the data has a means to verify the source and the data container; one use case here is verifying of user’s biometric data with template stored in smartcard secured IC. This enhances the security level and user convenience at the same time.

Data Integrity

  • Check if data has not been modified since its origin
  • Unauthorized forgery of the data may cause many damages to the owners of the data and affect the trust to the system. The secured IC with corresponding cryptography like message digest and signature would give the data a secured stamp.

Data Privacy

  • Holder has a way of verifying the receiver is authentic
  • Unintended listening / eavesdropping on an authentic conversation/skimming

Non Repudiation

  • The validity of the data is protected from being repudiated or refuted by the data originator.

Interoperability and Standards

L.A. : Definitely, both interoperability and standards are crucial. While, interoperability enables the development of cards and applications that will work together in open environments. Standards are needed to ensure the industry at large is able to scale fast and seamlessly through standardized interface between cards, terminals and slots.

V.G. : Yes, interoperability and standards, including the desired security level, provide a foundation for implementers and adopters of smartcard technology.

We have seen this trend in various projects implementation in India previously. For example, Rupay, which is used for local debit payment card scheme and SCOSTA which is the standard for e-Driving License. Here, based on open standards and specifications, the local industries has seen widespread and adoption for these application.

Proprietary standards has its limitation, as it restricts open specification and multiple sourcing; in short, projects may be lock-in and tied to a closed system implementation which make scaling more difficult.


What is a MCU?

A microcontroller is a computer present in a single integrated circuit which is dedicated to perform one task and execute one specific application. It contains memory, programmable input/output peripherals as well a processor. Microcontrollers are mostly designed for embedded applications and are heavily used in automatically controlled electronic devices such as cellphones, cameras, microwave ovens, washing machines, etc.


  • Consumer Electronics
  • Instrumentation and Process Control
  • Medical Instruments
  • Communication
  • Office Equipment
  • Multimedia
  • Automobile

Markets and Applications

V.G. : Key markets and application includes payment and banking, secured government documents, mobile communication (SIM), Transport and Ticketing and cards for physical and/or logical access (Employee Cards). These main stream applications covers more than 80% of the Smart Card market.

L.A. : Typically, smart cards are used in market like Finance, Transport, Transit, Health, Education for applications relating to electronic payments, driving license, health cards, access control and so on.

Expertise and Flagship Offering?

 V.G. : Infineon is the leading provider of security solutions. It holds the #1 position in volume market shares for security ICs with 53% in payment and 44% in government (ABI :ABI Smart Cards ICs Report; Oct. 2018). Infineon offers tailored and ready-to-use security solutions serving a wide range of applications from smart cards to new, emerging use cases.

These include:

Award winning easy-to-use security ICs for Payment, Government and Multi-application cards.

SECORA™ security solutions:

  • High performance and secured JAVA operating system with applets based on security ICs
  • Based on open standards
  • Bundled with innovative technologies like Coil-On-Module Packaging and SOLID FLASH™ memory

Outstanding security expertise and innovations make Infineon the preferred security partner. This is based on industry’s broadest security solution portfolio, in-depth system competence and high customer focus for 30 years.

L.A. : HID Global powers the trusted identities of the world’s people, places and things and delivers a complete solution of secure smart card IDs and credentials in a variety of form factors for physical and logical access control as well as converged solutions for building and computer access, transit payment, cashless vending, biometrics and other applications. We provide the industry’s broadest range of smart card-based credentials such as cards, tags and keyfobs. As part of its portfolio, HID offers non technology IDs as well as single technology, multi technology, and contact chip-based smart cards.

In terms of our flagship offerings, HID offers printers integrated with built-in smart card functionalities to print as well as personalize smart cards in a single pass. Some our champion products include:

  • The HDP6600 retransfer printers: This is the company’s sixthgeneration retransfer printer under HID’s FARGO brand, the most trusted name in ID card printers. HID Global has completely reengineered the retransfer printing concept and redesigned the printer from the ground up to accelerate high-volume and quality printing, lower the printing cost per card and deliver best-in-class energy efficiency–all with HID’s well-known industry-leading reliability. As a result, the printer provides ease of service, is cost efficient and adaptable across a wider range of applications.
  • Cloud Solution HID Fargo Connect: HID FARGO Connect gives administrators full system visibility and control while meeting or exceeding the strictest regulatory security requirements. It helps simplify the management and delivery of credentials by removing the most resource consuming tasks. This evolution in technology seamlessly works with popular one-card and physical access control software, databases and card technologies.


Niloy Banerjee

A generic movie-buff, passionate and professional with print journalism, serving editorial verticals on Technical and B2B segments, crude rover and writer on business happenings, spare time playing physical and digital forms of games; a love with philosophy is perennial as trying to archive pebbles from the ocean of literature. Lastly, a connoisseur in making and eating palatable cuisines.

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