Electronics Technology

The smartcard revisited

25 September 2002 Electronics Technology

Smartcards have become ubiquitous in most areas of our day-to-day life. Here, Craig Reeves of TDK Semiconductor gives a quick rundown on the technology.

The contact smartcard is a small rectangular piece of plastic, similar in size/thickness and shape, to the very common bank debit/credit card. It is referred to by ISO as an ICC (integrated circuit card) and contains a gold connector, that has eight contacts, of which only six are required (contacts C4 and C8 are used for synchronous smartcards).

The term 'smart' comes from the fact that the card contains an embedded microprocessor which allows it to perform intelligent functions using different application programs, as opposed to a memory-based card, which is just used for storage. Contacts VCC (V V/3,3 V) and GND provide power to the card, RST is used to reset the card, VPP is a higher programming voltage required for EPROM memory programming (VPP is not required by EEPROM as it uses a charge pump on the chip itself to generate the programming voltage) and I/O is the serial 1 bit asynchronous half-duplex data interface. The physical layer 1 protocol used on I/O can be either T = 0 or T = 1. The T = 0 protocol (byte format) came along first followed by T = 1 (block format). The type of protocol used between smartcard and reader is negotiated during the protocol type selection (PTS) handshake. Smartcards that implement their own proprietary protocol, use the designation T = 14.

The contact type smartcards need to be inserted into a smartcard reader, which has a dedicated slot with contacts, that connect to C1-C8. The operations between contact smartcard and reader occur in the following order:

* Connection/activation of the contacts by the card reader.

* Card reset.

* Card acknowledges the reset.

* Information exchange between card and reader.

* Deactivation of the contacts by the card reader.

A contactless smartcard houses a small antenna coil, which is used for data transfer and powering of the embedded microprocessor. Combination smartcards have both interfaces.

Smartcard standards

The basic contact smartcard standard is the ISO 7816 series (Parts 1-10), of which the most relevant are parts 1-3.

* Part 1: Physical characteristics.

* Part 2: Dimension and location of contacts.

* Part 3: Electronic signals and transmission protocol.

The contactless cards are specified by ISO 14443.

There are also a number of other standards, which have been developed to ensure interoperability of smartcards and terminals used for specific functions. These include the payments associations of Europay, MasterCard and Visa EMV2000 standard (also known as EMV 4.0 and based on ISO 7816) enabling safe and secure banking, the CEPSCO CEPS (Common Electronic Purse Specification), PC/SC (Personal Computer/Smart Card) Workgroup PC/SC Specification 1.0, which is based on ISO 7816 and compatible with EMV and GSM standards and specifies application level interoperability and resource sharing - somewhat overlooked by the ISO 7816, EMV and GSM standards which are all very application-specific standards. MasterCard's SET (Secure Electronic Transaction) standard allowing safe Internet shopping, the ETSI GSM 11.11/11.12 standard (again based on ISO 7816) which specifies the mobile phone user's identification and authorisation using the SIM card, and OpenCard for its OpenCard Framework which details a specific architecture and set of APIs to improve compatibility between different smartcard hardware/software architectures. Of course, there are many more standards that I have not mentioned.

Smartcard applications

Initially, all smartcards issued were restricted to single applications, since once programmed and 'out in the field', these applications could not be changed. Also only one application could be resident on the card. Today, we can see examples of health cards, prepaid telephone cards, ID cards, banking and loyalty cards and cash cards. However, the next generation of smartcard, aptly called the 'lifestyle' card, will be a multifunction card, combining several applications (from different providers) on the same card. These applications can be removed/added and updated to change the functions of the card. This is due to the development of smartcard operating systems, which allow multiple applications to co-exist on the same card.

The three most popular smartcard operating systems are:



* Microsoft Windows card.

TDK Semiconductor offers a wide range of smartcard controllers.


Share this article:
Share via emailShare via LinkedInPrint this page

Further reading:

Microthermal liquid flow sensors
29 July 2020, Electrocomp , Analogue, Mixed Signal, LSI
The SLF3x liquid flow sensor series from Sensirion represents an advancement for microthermal liquid flow sensors. By combining Sensirion’s 20-year track record in low and lowest flow rate sensing with ...

Industrial enclosures in stainless steel
31 August 2020, Electrocomp , Enclosures, Racks, Cabinets & Panel Products
The IP66 EJSS family from Hammond Electronics is available in 304 or 316 grade stainless steel, supplied as standard in a natural smooth brushed finish. Sealed to IP66, the EJSS is designed for use as ...

Multi-sensor IoT module
29 July 2020, Electrocomp , Telecoms, Datacoms, Wireless, IoT
TDK announced worldwide availability of the InvenSense SmartBug, a compact, wireless multi-sensor solution designed for a plethora of commercial and consumer IoT applications. The out-of-the-box solution ...

DIN rail enclosures
30 June 2020, Electrocomp , Enclosures, Racks, Cabinets & Panel Products
Hammond Manufacturing has announced its 1597DIN family of UL94-V0 flame-retardant plastic enclosures for mounting to standard IEC/EN 60715 35 mm DIN rails for applications such as industrial control equipment, ...

CeraCharge now available in a small packing unit
30 June 2020, Electrocomp , Passive Components
TDK is presenting a new packing unit for CeraCharge, the world’s first SMD technology solid-state rechargeable battery, in the compact size EIA 1812 (4,4 x 3,0 x 1,1 mm). The packing unit (B73180A0101M199) ...

Robust temperature sensor for E-mobility
30 June 2020, Electrocomp , Analogue, Mixed Signal, LSI
The new B58703M1103A* temperature sensor is specially developed for demanding E-mobility applications, which call for high long-term stability. The NTC sensor is designed for a temperature range of -40°C ...

Thick-film chip resistors
29 April 2020, Electrocomp , Passive Components
Bourns announced the introduction of its new Model CR01005 series thick-film chip resistor. This extra small – 01005 inch (0402 metric) – CR01005 series broadens the general purpose thick-film chip resistor ...

Dual-channel high-speed protector
29 April 2020, Electrocomp , Circuit & System Protection
Bourns announced the release of the Model TBU-RS085-300-WH, for use in RS-485 communication interface protection. The part is an integrated dual-channel transient blocking unit (TBU) over-current and ...

Bourns launches new mobile app
25 March 2020, Electrocomp , Design Automation
The new Bourns app is now available free to download for iOS and Android at the Apple App Store and at the Google Play Store. Mobile apps are very popular marketing tools these days with over 50 million ...

Electrocomp launches new website
25 March 2020, Electrocomp , News
Electrocomp is inviting visitors to explore its new website, which has been designed to offer a user-friendly experience with improved navigation and functionality while allowing customers to see their ...