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3-in-1 Card Reader

Smart card manufacturers are now beginning to produce what is termed a combo card, a single card combining magnetic stripe, chip and Contactless smart card technology in one. 

“The card bridges the gap between magnetic-stripe, chip cards and the new Contactless smart card technology,” explained Murton System Technologies MD Brent Maurer.  The cards do not need to be swiped, hence the name Contactless.

“As Contactless cards in the 13 MHz spectrum are a relatively new phenomenon, only a few card producer worldwide are presently manufacturing combo cards employing chip as well as Contactless card technology,” notes Maurer.  “But this technology is sure to become more prevalent in the future as a multitude of new applications for the technology becomes a reality.”

MS Tech, anticipating the outcome of the new combo card, have developed a prototype reader capable of reading all three cards.

“We did not develop the readers from scratch,” said Maurer.  “There are literally thousands of readers already in existence from as many manufacturers.  What Murton did was to adapt an existing magnetic stripe and chip card combination reader by incorporating the Contactless component. The latter being what we specialize in.”

The incorporation of the Contactless component into an already existing reader reduces the cost of adopting the new technology. 

To put the applications into perspective, chip cards are generally used for applications in which the card holds money such as payphone cards, while magnetic stripe cards are used as credit cards or for ATM transactions.

Contactless smart cards differ from standard smart cards because they cannot be tampered with and can be read from a distance. Contactless cards can be utilized as credit cards, phone cards, bus cards, ID cards and numerous other applications.

The new card reader in essence contains three technologies in one.

“We see this as a major breakthrough in the smart card industry, providing a standard across all three technologies and making it easier for banks and companies to migrate to newer technologies,” he explained.

“Contactless cards are ideally suited to applications in the e-Commerce, banking and the retail market as well as for mass transport where transactions need to take place quickly to avoid bottlenecks.  From a distance the complete Contactless smart card transaction can take place in less than 0,15 seconds,” noted Maurer.

Contactless cards have been developed using Philips Mifare technology, a global standard for Contactless smart card ICs to the world market and Murton System Technologies was the first South African company to develop smart card products using Mifare as far back as 1997.

"Mifare is already well established as the de facto industry standard.  It covers about 90% of today's Contactless smart card market with more than 300-million card ICs in use around the world and has proven its reliability with more than a billion transactions carried out over the last three years," noted Maurer.

The Contactless card is a credit card-sized plastic card with a special integrated circuit (IC) embedded within the card.  The internal RF (radio frequency) antenna makes Contactless communication possible and is embedded in the card itself.  The IC stores information in an electronic form and provides intelligence to protect its information from theft and damage.

The integration of all three technologies on a single card reader opens enormous opportunities in the smart card market, and we see this as a major step forward in the acceptance of smart cards,” he said.

Murton System Technologies, an ISO 9002 accredited company, was established in 1979.  It offers specialized electronic turnkey production services including, local and international component sourcing of all active, passive and electromechanical components as well as printed circuit cards, assembly of single sided, double sided, multi layer, surface mount, mixed technology PCB, and complete functional testing and burn-in testing to a number of international standards. Integration and testing of PCB and, sub-assemblies sub racks and final assemblies. MS Tech also offer third party sourcing and production capacity is geared for runs ranging from a few tens, to tens of thousands.

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