What Is a Smart Card?

smart card

What Is a Smart Card?

A smart card is a physical card with an embedded integrated chip that serves as a security token. Smart cards are usually the same size as a credit or driver’s license and can be made from metal or plastic. They link to a reader either through direct physical contact or short-term wireless networking protocols like near-field communication.


A smart card contains a chip with processing power to store and protect information. This provides it with the ability to function as an ID, a credit card or even a repository for personal data such as telephone numbers or medical history. Unlike the magnetic stripe cards that remain in use in many places in the United States, smart cards are resistant to tampering and can be encrypted to prevent data breaches.

Smart cards are also much harder to clone than magnetic strips because the secrets they hold are stored on the chip, rather than on a piece of paper. Additionally, smart card technology can be used to verify the authenticity of a user’s identity.

As a result, smart cards are considered an extremely high form of security. They are designed to be as tamper-proof as possible, and can include features such as a self-destruct mechanism that will render the chip useless if tampered with. They also feature tamper-evident mechanisms that will alert the user to any changes in the chip’s functionality and require the user to enter a password or PIN before allowing further access.

Smart cards are available in a variety of forms, including plastic cards, key fobs and watches, the subscriber identification modules used in GSM mobile phones and USB-based tokens. They can be categorized according to their internal architectures, such as hybrid, contactless and dual interface.


The open specifications developed for smart cards by industry standards groups and card readers allow applications to run on the chip. This increases the potential for interoperability and reduces the need mifare desfire ev1 to rely on proprietary systems, which often require specific implementations.

A smart card can also provide mechanisms for secure communications between the card and external devices, which helps enhance security. This feature is similar to the security protocols used in networks, and it provides a level of protection against tampering.

Smart cards that contain multiple applications allow individuals to use the same card for different functions, which can save money and reduce the number of cards in a wallet. For example, the Blue chip on an American Express card offers extra security when shopping online and a ticketing application that verifies a Cardmember’s purchase.

Healthcare organizations can save money by using smart cards to authenticate patients, which can help to prevent fraud and streamline the admissions process. This also enables the hospital to keep up with patient records and ensure that all data is transmitted accurately. A pilot exercise by the American Medical Association tested the effectiveness of patient smart cards, and results showed that a patient with a smart card receives faster and more effective care than one without. This is especially useful when dealing with language barriers, unconscious patients and other challenges faced by first responders.


The security features of a smart card go well beyond what can be done with credit cards with magnetic strips. smart card In addition to a secure chip, a smart card has visual security markings and an optional barcode or optical stripe. These features can be used to verify the card’s identity to help prevent fraudulent transactions or stolen data.

The microprocessor in a smart card can also perform additional functions, compared to simple magnetic stripe cards. For example, some smart cards use a combination of a microprocessor and memory chip to perform more complex operations like cryptography. This allows for full-on chip crypto, which helps to provide enhanced authentication and encryption security.

Another important feature of a smart card is the ability to verify identity and authenticate information. This is especially useful for identity and access management, which is a crucial part of any secure system. Credentials like passwords can’t do this, since anyone could use them to log on to an application or system. Smart cards can validate a user’s identity and give them only the access they are authorized to have.

A smart card can also be used to store and manage keys that allow for secure encryption and digital signatures. For this reason, many disk encryption systems such as Microsoft’s BitLocker and VeraCrypt rely on smart cards to securely hold encryption keys and add an extra layer of protection to critical parts of the disk.


While smart cards may be more expensive than traditional magnetic card technology, they offer superior security and convenience. For example, smart cards contain a microprocessor that can execute password or PIN comparisons internally and are protected by tamper-resistant hardware. This means that the card is more secure from hackers than a regular credit card or phone card, because it can only be used by the person who owns the card.

Smart cards are a great way to add functionality to mobile devices, such as tablets and smartphones. They can be embedded with a variety of software applications, including operating systems, which are designed to run on the microprocessor. This allows for the addition of extra functions, such as security or user authentication, without the need to install additional software on the device.

Some smart cards include both a microprocessor and a memory chip for greater functionality, while others only have the memory chip. There are also hybrid cards that can function as both contact and contactless smart cards, depending on the application. This is a very powerful combination that makes it possible to use the card for a range of different purposes, such as security access or storing phone contacts.

The smart card market is expected to grow significantly over the next few years, driven by a variety of factors. For one, the increasing adoption of contactless technology is leading to the need for increased security in mobile devices. In addition, smart card technology is a good option for businesses that need to provide users with secure, convenient and portable ways to authenticate themselves online.