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