Smart Card and Tag Technology

A smart card/tag (fob) is a plastic card about the size of a credit card, with an embedded microchip that can be loaded with data, used for telephone calling, electronic cash payments, and other applications, and then periodically refreshed for additional use. Currently or soon, you may be able to use a smart card to:

  • Dial a connection on a mobile telephone and be charged on a per-call basis
  • Establish your identity when logging on to an Internet access provider or to an online bank
  • Pay for parking at parking meters or to get on subways, trains, or buses
  • Give hospitals or doctors personal data without filling out a form
  • Make small purchases at electronic stores on the Web
  • Buy gasoline at a gasoline station

Over a billion smart cards are already in use. Currently, Europe is the region where they are most used. Compaq and Hewlett-Packard are reportedly working on keyboards that include smart card slots that can be read like bank credit cards.

How Smart Cards Work

A smart card contains more information than a magnetic stripe card and it can be programmed for different applications. Some cards can contain programming and data to support multiple applications and some can be updated to add new applications after they are issued. Smart cards can be designed to be inserted into a slot and read by a special reader or to be read at a distance, such as at a tollbooth. Cards can be disposable or reloadable.

Ours is a read/write technology that uses 13.56 MHz and meets the ISO 144443, type A standard for contactless smart cards. The maximum effective distance (read range) for the 14443 standard is 100mm. The technology is available in two card sizes, the 1 Kbyte card and the 4 Kbyte card. The 1 Kbyte is the most common chip used.

Each chip can be divided into 16 sectors of 64 bytes each. (16 x 64 bytes = 1024 bytes or 1 Kbyte) These are numbered 0 - 15. Each sector can be further divided into 4 blocks, each block is 16 bytes and the blocks are numbered 0 -3. (4 x 16 bytes = 64 bytes) So in a SSO card there are 64 different locations where data can be stored. Block 0 of sector 0 is where the Card Serial Number (CSN) is stored. The CSN is fixed at the time of manufacture and cannot be changed. The CSN is 32 bits long. The CSN is also known as the UID (Unique ID) or serial number.

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