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Articles - Advanced Cards 101

WHAT ARE ADVANCED CARDS?

Advanced cards are those employing technology that is more advanced than the magnetic stripe cards we use for applications such as credit cards.

I. CARRYING COINS ON CARDS

Capacitive cards, also referred to as coin cards, carry stored value using a series of electronic tokens built into the card for a variety of applications such as public transit, vending machines, telephones and parking meters. The technology has advanced over the past several years and is now used for Internet access and identity card systems. The cards use WORM technology (write once, read many) and operate on contactless memory in close proximity of the reader.

The low cost (approximately 25 cents per card) and the efficient operation of capacitive cards make them a convenient solution to carrying change. Whether the cards are used as part of a turnstile system in mass transit, or at a "Pay and Display" parking lot, transaction processing is fast and user-friendly.

Each time the card enters a reader an electronic token is deleted from the card, providing a higher level of security than traditional magnetic stripe cards. Capacitive cards cannot be reloaded, so that once the stored amount of tokens are deleted, the card can be disposed.

Coincard International Inc. supplies capacitive cards to Prince George, British Columbia through Prince George Transit Ltd. These capacitive cards are used as pre-paid bus fare passes for Prince George residents.

THE HISTORY OF CAPACITIVE CARD TECHNOLOGY

1989: Doyle Argosy Innovators Ltd., the inventor, is provincially incorporated with the objective of developing a card system of similar cost to magnetic systems, but with a higher level of protection from both fraudulent re-loading and counterfeiting.
1995: British Columbia Transit initiates Alpha field test of Coincards in Comox, BC.
1996: US patent is received for Swipe Card technology.
1997: British Columbia Transit initiates Beta field tests of Coincards in Whistler, BC. The company changes its name from Doyle Argosy Innovators Ltd. to Coincard International Inc.
1999: US patent is received for Coincard technology.
2000: Geo-Encryption of technology is completed. The Coincard product line expands to include a compact, low energy insertion reader/writer unit. This expands market potential from automatic fare payment systems to areas such as loyalty programs and vending, as well as internet access and identity cards.
2001: Coincard rolls out in the US market.

II. A MINI-CD IN YOUR WALLET

Optical cards, also known as laser cards, are virtually a CD on a card. Because of the high data storage capability and durability of this type of advanced card, kidney dialysis patients in the United States are using the technology to travel abroad with their kidney dialysis information stored on optical cards.

Optical cards use WORM technology and are capable of storing 10,000 times more data than a magnetic stripe card and 200 to 400 times more than a smart card.

The optical card can apply many security tools that are available for advanced cards, such as PIN, challenge-response and biometrics.

In 1997, the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service selected the optical card for use as the new Permanent Resident and Border Crossing Cards because of the high security features and storage capability, according to LaserCard Systems Corp.

THE HISTORY OF OPTICAL CARD TECHNOLOGY

1939: The first optical card is designed as a platter in Eindhoven, Holland by Philips Electronics, and then shelved during World War II.
1968: Drexler Technology Corporation (DTC) is founded. The company supplied the semi-conductor industry with photomasks, photochemicals and photoplates for integrated circuit production.
1982: DTC invents and patents the optical memory card, later trademarked as "LaserCard".
1983: DTC starts the optical memory card technology licensing program
1984: Establishment of national optical memory card standards committees in the United States and Japan.
1989: LaserCard Systems Corporation (LSC) is formed as a wholly owned subsidiary of DTC.
1991: The first worldwide use of LaserCard. Successful field trials are held for the US Defense Logistics Agency's "Automated Manifest System"
1992: VisX, the world's largest manufacturer of laser eye surgery systems, begins using LaserCard to control and record patient procedures around the world.
1994: Unveiling of the hybrid smart/optical card. By the mid-nineties, LaserCard is being used extensively around the globe in healthcare, retail services and vehicle maintenance.
1995: The first ISO standard for optical memory cards is published.
1996: ISO standards for optical memory cards completed.
1997: LaserCard is declared a Department of Defense standard for global logistics. The US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) selects the optical card for the new generation Permanent Resident Card (or "Green Card"). Under contract with the INS, LSC develops a multi-technology card reader capable of handling five different card technologies.
1998: LaserCard is specified for Laser Visa, a multiple-entry Visa card issued to Mexican citizens by the US Department of State.
1999: The government of Italy specifies optical memory as a key security feature for their new national identification program.
2000: The government of the State of Gujurat, India issues a 5.5 million card contract with LaserCard for a smart/optical card secure vehicle registration program. The government of Canada issues a Request for Proposal, specifying optical memory cards, for a new Permanent Resident Card.
2001: Maharashtra, India and Kerala, India specify smart/optical cards for their vehicle registration programs. LSC introduces the "Sicuro" system, a suite of highly secure optical memory card issuing and transaction products. Sicuro is now being marketed worldwide.

III. WHAT'S SO SMART ABOUT SMART CARDS?

A smart, or chip, card is a plastic card no larger than a credit card, containing a central processing unit similar to that of PCs. They are capable of managing files, making calculations, processing data and employing a wide variety of security tools. Smart cards are currently in use in Canada and around the world. Applications include satellite dish de-scramblers, telephone and internet banking, pre-paid phone cards and campus identification.

Two types of chips are available for smart card applications: microprocessor and memory chips.

A memory chip has optional security and is capable of holding up to 16,000 bits of data. Memory cards are less expensive than microprocessors, and are ideal for low to medium security applications that do not require computations on the card.

Microprocessor chips can add, delete and manipulate information on their memory. The French Bankers' Association uses microprocessor chips for credit card applications to store available cash and compute diminishing balance as the cardholder makes purchases.

Smart cards have data storage capacity ranging from 300 to 32,000 bytes. Like all computing devices, memory capacity increases over time as the technology advances. Smart cards capable of storing 64,000 to 128,000 bytes are being tested, with plans for ten times that capacity in the future.

CONTACT AND CONTACTLESS CARDS

Contact smart cards require insertion into a smart card reader, whereas contactless smart cards do not require physical contact but must be operating within close proximity of the reader. Both the card and the reader are equipped with a radio frequency antenna for communication, as well as an internal chip for data exchange. Financial institutions like Mondex and Visa use contact smart cards for internet and telephone banking applications.

Contactless cards are ideal for high-volume areas where security can be difficult to maintain. The use of this type of smart card is most commonly utilized for mass transit, like subway terminals, but they also provide fast and secure admittance to thousands of fans each year at the Miami Dolphins stadium in Miami, Florida.

THE HISTORY OF SMART CARD TECHNOLOGY

1939: The first optical card is designed as a platter in Eindhoven, Holland by Philips Electronics, and then shelved during World War II.
1968: Drexler Technology Corporation (DTC) is founded. The company supplied the semi-conductor industry with photomasks, photochemicals and photoplates for integrated circuit production.
1982: DTC invents and patents the optical memory card, later trademarked as "LaserCard".
1983: DTC starts the optical memory card technology licensing program
1984: Establishment of national optical memory card standards committees in the United States and Japan.
1989: LaserCard Systems Corporation (LSC) is formed as a wholly owned subsidiary of DTC.
1991: The first worldwide use of LaserCard. Successful field trials are held for the US Defense Logistics Agency's "Automated Manifest System"
1992: VisX, the world's largest manufacturer of laser eye surgery systems, begins using LaserCard to control and record patient procedures around the world.
1994: Unveiling of the hybrid smart/optical card. By the mid-nineties, LaserCard is being used extensively around the globe in healthcare, retail services and vehicle maintenance.
1995: The first ISO standard for optical memory cards is published.
1996: ISO standards for optical memory cards completed.
1997: LaserCard is declared a Department of Defense standard for global logistics. The US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) selects the optical card for the new generation Permanent Resident Card (or "Green Card"). Under contract with the INS, LSC develops a multi-technology card reader capable of handling five different card technologies.
1998: LaserCard is specified for Laser Visa, a multiple-entry Visa card issued to Mexican citizens by the US Department of State.
1999: The government of Italy specifies optical memory as a key security feature for their new national identification program.
2000: The government of the State of Gujurat, India issues a 5.5 million card contract with LaserCard for a smart/optical card secure vehicle registration program. The government of Canada issues a Request for Proposal, specifying optical memory cards, for a new Permanent Resident Card.
2001: Maharashtra, India and Kerala, India specify smart/optical cards for their vehicle registration programs. LSC introduces the "Sicuro" system, a suite of highly secure optical memory card issuing and transaction products. Sicuro is now being marketed worldwide.

IV. SMART CARDS AROUND THE WORLD

The French Bankers' Association in France moved from magnetic stripe to smart card technology in 1993, effectively controlling bank card fraud using off-line authorization and security.

More than 100 countries worldwide have introduced the use of smart cards for telephones, effectively reducing or eliminating coin-operated pay phones.

Most small dish television satellite receivers in North America use smart card technologies for security elements and subscription information.

In China, the medical community has implemented the use of smart cards through a fibre optic network. This use of smart cards allows nurses to sign onto the network in remote areas where there is a shortage of doctors to perform minor surgeries and procedures with the guidance of a doctor in the city.

V. WHAT'S HAPPENING IN CANADA?

In Canada, loyalty and gift certificate programs are common smart card uses. Currently smart card technologies are being used across Canada for transit, data security, stored value and e-cash, time and attendance, parking payment and other applications.

Industry Canada Community Access Program (CAP)

This program will offer internet access at public venues, such as libraries and community centers, for Canadians who do not have PCs. More than 50% of Canadians are deemed to be internet disabled because of limited vision, hand or arm disabilities, illiteracy, cultural and language issues.

To overcome this obstacle, CAP will use smart cards to store each user's profile and the profile properties will be used to configure the PC, activating the required software and hardware to allow user access. CAP is planning to have 10,000 sites across Canada by 2004, with at least five PCs at each site.

Skills Data Card Initiative

This program is being designed as an identification authentication and certification application for
the construction industry.

The Skills Data Card is a smart card that will be carried by construction workers to provide employers with job specific information.

Labourers, unions, contractors, consumers, safety and training agencies and provincial governments will use the card applications.