Smart Cards are being extensively used in various fields of life. It has provided customers with the ease of mobility while carrying their personal details with them in an extremely secure manner. Smart Cards have been implemented initially as pre-paid phone cards and picked up trends to be used for e-commerce today.Today I will present the basic structure of a smart card, it’s uses, security feature, and the various benefits customers can enjoy.What Is A Smart Card?Smart Cards can be thought of being a specialized form of computing that are plastic cards same in size and shape as that of a credit card with an integrated microprocessor and memory.History Of Smart Cards:Smart cards can be traced back to 1968 when using plastic cards as the carrier of microchips was first developed by the German inventors Jurgen Dethloff and Helmut Grotrupp .Two years later, in 1970, Kunitaka Arimura developed a similar application.Then in 1980 Smart Cards were introduced in Europe for pre-paid phone cash. When a customer purchased this pre-paid phone card, it contained the total amount of “cash” available against which calls could be made. So basically – he made a one-time payment against the amount that he could use for his phone calls.The total cash available was coded into the microprocessor chip embedded in the smart card. Next, whenever a user made a phone call, the bill amount was charged to the card =; it was debited from the total cash available.Essential Parts Of Smart Cards:Microprocessor:A typical smart card has a small microprocessor chip embedded in it. A microprocessor is a programmed silicon chip that is coded with all the various instructions required to perform the desired processing and output.Memory:Smart cards were introduced to store about 4K-8 K memories. However, with increased development there are new smart cards holding 32Kb to 4Mb of non-volatile data.Operating System:Smart Card chips hold an operating system – the piece of software that is responsible for managing and interfacing the hardware and software. On a card it controls the way data is stored, accessed and updated.Card Terminal:Smart Cards require special readers to read/write data, called Card terminals. This is the hardware aspect of reading smart cards. The reader is just responsible for extracting information from the smart card and passing it to the processing software. It thus acts as an interface between the stored information, and the executing application.Contact ; Contact less Cardsï¿½ The smart card interchanges data with the outside world in two ways:* Through gold plated contacts. They are called contact cards.* Through radio frequency, using an antenna embedded in the card. This type of card is called contact less.Various types of smart cards are available:- Memory Cards: Cards without a CPU are called memory cards .;Mc.s are used for single function application, are inexpensive, and typically used in phone card type prepayment applications.- Processor Cards: are the real smart cards as they contain the microprocessor that enables data updation.Microprocessor cards are able to provide read/write function and enhanced security with a CPU. They are more expensive than memory cards.- JavaCards: are the latest breed of smart cards .A JavaCard is a smart card that can load and execute programs written in Java.Most Important Features Of Smart Cards:The two main characteristics of smart cards are its mobility and security. The security aspect justifies the use of smart cards.The microprocessor of the smart card has encryption keys and decryption algorithms built-in for performing encryption/decryption of data inside the card. The operating system file structure prevents the secret keys from being read from outside the smart card.Benefits of Smart Cards:As smart card applications are being widely developed, customers are being encouraged to use smart cards and rely on the increased security.? Chip is foolproof: The microprocessor is embedded into the smart card. It is safe from being tampered by other users or from rough usage. On the other hand normal credit cards have to be secured from scratches and being tempered. The chip also has a unique chip serial no. which identifies the make, type, production date for the chip.? Personal information is read/write protected: Any sensitive data stored on the smart card is permanently burnt into the microprocessor chip and safe from modification. This is called non-volatile data.? Data is secure using encryption/decryption: Various encryption and decryption codes are used to encode/decode data when storing it in smart card. This stores data in a secret form so that it cannot be understood and used unless the decryption code is known.? Capable of storing temporary modifiable information: Smart cards are also provided with a modifiable memory storage, which can store temporary details. This is updated each time the card is used. Hence a card can receive , process and send information as and when required by the processing application.? It can process information: Smart cards are capable of processing information. Banking transactions use details from stored on the smart card, process it during application execution and then update details on the smart card. The processing of data is done in a temporary storage called volatile memory, which is used during the phase of data processing.? Regular update of features: Specialized Smart cards are also provided with various embedded applications and computing features. These can be regularly updated even after the smart card is issued. It is exactly similar to updating a PC after it’s purchase.Daily Tasks:Smart cards greatly improve the convenience and security of any transaction. They provide tamper-proof storage of user and account identity. Smart cards also provide vital components of system security for the exchange of data throughout virtually any type of network. They protect against a full range of security threats, from careless storage of user passwords to sophisticated system hacks. Multifunction cards can also serve as network system access and store value and other data. People worldwide are now using smart cards for a wide variety of daily tasks, these include:? Chemical laboratories in research centers require heavy authentication of user entry. Here it is extremely important to maintain security and authorized access. Smart cards are helpful to verify the details of each individual entering the lab. These also record details like entry and exit timings, duration of stay, lab entered etc. Such crucial details are important to monitor activities of researchers or scientists.? Smart cards are even being used in the field of medicine .There are an estimated 80mn people who carry a smart card during their visit to the doctor. Smart cards store the relevant details about each patient. Eg. a patient holding a smart card will have his personal information and important medical details (allergies, diseases, family history) stored in it permanently. Besides this, on each visit, the last visit details and medication is also stored on the smart card for easy and quick reference. Such data can then be used to look up information about the patient in the computer system of the doctor. Smart cards also provide mobility to the patient as they can visit different doctors without having to carry their medical file or important medical details.? British Air introduced another extremely use of smart cards. Transit passengers are provided with a smart card that can be tracked and contacted through radio receivers. These smart cards hold information about next destination, departure time, departure gate etc. In this way, the passengers can be tracked when they are in transit. Thus, aircrafts do not have to wait for passengers who do not show up or are not ready to fly at the next departure time.Securing Information and Physical AssetsIn addition to information security, smart cards achieve greater physical security of services and equipment, because the card restricts access to all but the authorized user(s). E-mail and PCs are being locked-down with smart cards. Smart cards can also act as keys to machine settings for sensitive laboratory equipment and dispensers for drugs, tools, library cards, health club equipment etc.E-CommerceSmart cards make it easy for consumers to securely store information and cash for purchasing. The advantages they offer consumers are:* The card can carry personal account, credit and buying preference information that can be accessed with a mouse click instead of filling out forms.* Cards can manage and control expenditures with automatic limits and reporting.* Internet loyalty programs can be deployed across multiple vendors with disparate POS systems and the card acts as a secure central depository for points or rewards.* “Micro Payments” – paying nominal costs without transaction fees associated with credit cards or for amounts too small for cash ,like reprint charges.Campus Badging and AccessBusinesses and universities of all types need simple identity cards for all employees and students. Most of these people are also granted access to certain data, equipment and departments according to their status. Multifunction, microprocessor-based smart cards incorporate identity with access privileges and also store value for use in various locations, such as cafeterias and stores.ConclusionSmart cards can add convenience and safety to any transaction of value and data;They have largely replaced a lot of credit card and money transactions.The industry analysts and the specialized press forecast a brilliant future for the smart cards. Billions of cards are predicted to be circulating in a few years as it has provided greater mobility to users and security when online transactions or authentic checks are concerned.