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What's So Smart About Smart Cards?

2158 words - 9 pages

What's So Smart About Smart Cards? Since the early 1990's, smart cards have been introduced into different areas of life around the globe. From finance to telecommunications to heath care and government, smart cards are one of the latest additions to the world of information technology.Similar in size to a credit card, a smart card looks very much like the magnetic stripe credit or debit cards we use every day to access automated teller machines and pay for everything from groceries and gasoline to airfares and online purchases. The difference is that instead of, or perhaps in addition to, the familiar magnetic stripe the smart card carries a memory chip and sometimes a microprocessor as well. The chip stores electronic data and programs that are protected by advanced security features. When coupled with a reader, the smart card has the processing power to serve many different applications. The smart card can store large amounts of information about the cardholder such as bank account balances, medical history, or biometric identifier. This information enables cardholders to identify themselves securely for online transactions or pay for a broad range of products and services without necessarily contacting a central network.As and access control device, smart cards make personal and business data available only to the appropriate users. Another application provides users with the ability to make a purchase or exchange value.Smart cards come in two varieties, memory and microprocessor. Memory cards simply store data and can be viewed as a small floppy disk with optional security. A microprocessor card can add, delete and manipulate information in its memory on the card. In addition, a microprocessor card has an input/output operating system and a hard disk with built in security features, all in the size of a credit card.The ultimate utility of smart cards is in the functions they carry out. For example, payment processes, identification, network computing, health care management, benefits distribution and so on. Application programs handle data read by smart card readers and forward them to central computers located at the other end of the smart card infrastructure such as payment servers in banks, traffic control centers or mobile phone centers, credit card companies, governments or some other service provider. Compared to conventional data transmission devices such as magnetic stripe cards, smart cards offer enhanced security, convenience and economic benefits. Smart card based systems are highly configurable to suit individual needs. The multi-functionality of smart cards as payment, application and networking devices renders a smart card as a perfect user interface in a mobile, networked economy.The possibilities of smart cards are virtually endless. A financial service card could handle not only debit and credit purchases but generate an electronic signature so we could sign a lease or close on a mortgage in person or from a distant city. A...

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