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A smart card is a card that is embedded with either a microprocessor and a memory chip or only a memory chip with non-programmable logic. The microprocessor card can add, delete, and otherwise manipulate information on the card, while a memory-chip card (for example, pre-paid phone cards) can only undertake a pre-defined operation.
Smart cards, unlike magnetic stripe cards, can carry all necessary functions and information on the card. Therefore, they do not require access to remote databases at the time of the transaction.
Today, there are three categories of smart cards, all of which are evolving rapidly into new markets and applications:
These cards are used for a variety applications, especially those that have cryptography built in, which requires manipulation of large numbers. Thus, chip cards have been the main platform for cards that hold a secure digital identity. Some examples of these cards are:
Memory cards represent the bulk of the 600 million smart cards sold last year, primarily for pre-paid, disposable-card applications like pre-paid phone cards. Memory cards are popular as high-security alternatives to mag stripe cards.
|Maximum Data Capacity||Processing Power||Cost of Card||Cost of Reader and Connection|
|Magnetic Stripe Cards||140 bytes||None||$0.20 - $0.75||$750|
|Integrated Circuit Memory Cards||1 Kbyte||None||$1 - $2.50||$500|
|Integrated Circuit Processor Cards||8 Kbytes||8-bit cpu, moving to 16- and 32-bit||$7-$15||$500|
|Optical Memory Cards||4.9 Mbytes||None||$7 - $12||$3,500 - $4,000|
Source: Gartner Group
The first smart card was developed in 1974, by independent inventor Roland Moreno. This year, almost 1 billion smart cards will be produced worldwide by several large manufacturers. Currently, 95% of these cards are issued in Europe, South America, and Asia. By the year 2000, Data Monitor predicts that over 3 billion cards will be in circulation worldwide - with over 15% of the total in use in the United States and Canada.
By way of comparison, there are over 900 million credit cards in circulation today. Major uses will include providing enhanced financial services, increasing the security and flexibility of cellular phones, and securing satellite and cable transmissions in TV set-top boxes.