Smart Cards

Tackling security the smart way

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.


Smart cards may be used for a number of different applications, including ID, authentication, or to store information. Smart cards have been widely used in the financial sector for many years now, in order for banks to offer their customer more flexibility securely. In more recent years smart cards have been applied to the transport system allowing travellers to move around more efficiently and to retail loyalty schemes.


Examples of some applications of smart cards can be seen below:


  • Encoded with personal data including: address, age, medical history & blood type
  • Biometric access control encrypted with fingerprint and retinal scan data
  • Printed with a strong corporate identity and a large portrait

smart card types

There are four types of smart cards, which are defined by the way they are read/written:

Contact Cards

This type of card must be inserted into a card reader in order for it to be read, as the electrical contacts on the outside of the card need to connect with the card reader.

Contact type smart card is divided into 2 main categories, memory chip and microprocessor chip.


These use radio frequencies to transfer data and therefor they do not have to be put through a card reader. Contactless /proximity cards are low in price and are commonly used in applications such as identification cards, Access control, key cards, payment cards and public transport cards. Example of some of the contactless card is MIFARE NXP, iCLass, Proximity cards & there are other types of RFID cards.

hybrid card

It is a combination to make the cards more secure. Both contact and contactless chips that are not interconnected.

Magnetic Strip Card

These are a type of card capable of storing data by modifying the magnetism of tiny iron-based magnetic particles on a band of magnetic material on the card.

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Operational Director, United Nations