Smart Cards in Access Control

?Access control refers to the process of granting access to certain entities or persons and refusing access to others. Access used to be primarily physical and was controlled via gates, locks, and security guards. Keys, passwords, PIN numbers and...


To use a contact smart card, the user must physically insert the card into a reader where pins attached to the reader make contact with special pads on the surface of the card. Once this contact is made, the information on the chip can be read.


Contactless smart cards. Contactless smart cards contain an embedded antenna instead of contact pads connected to the embedded chip. Information can be read and written to the chip and the memory on these smart cards.??


Since they work on radio frequency, contactless smart cards do not have to be inserted into a reader device. Instead, they need only be passed within range of a radio frequency acceptor in order to read and store information on the chip. The range of operation is generally between 2.5" and 3.9".?


Contactless smart cards can be used for many of the same applications as contact smart cards, and they are generally more convenient and faster to use.?


Proximity smart cards. Also known as "prox cards," proximity smart cards communicate through an antenna that has a fairly wide range of operation?up to 20". Prox cards allow a small amount of information to be read, such as an identification code that can be verified by a computer. However, it is not possible to write information back to the card.?


Proximity cards come in several thicknesses, with the antenna generally embedded between the two plastic surfaces of the smart card. These cards are convenient and offer security, identification and access control applications.?


Hybrid and combination smart cards. Hybrid cards are referred to as e-cards by some manufacturers and multi-technology cards by others. They contain two or more of the abovementioned embedded chip technologies.??


One of the most prominent uses for hybrid cards is for upgrading existing badging and security systems. The hybrid card allows the accommodation of legacy systems' card technology and infrastructure while adding new applications and technologies to the card.?


Combination smart cards, also known as dual-interface cards, are similar to hybrids in that they incorporate more than one technology, but different in that they include one embedded smart chip that can be accessed both through contact pads and embedded antennas.?


This card provides both high security and ease of use. It lends itself to mass transit applications where a cash value can be put in the memory chips through a contact-acceptor, and fare can be deducted through a contactless interface.?


Standards
The International Standards Organization (ISO) 7810, and the 7816 series, parts 1-10, specify the physical structure of the smart card. In 1987 the ISO published standard 7816, which allowed smart cards to communicate using the same protocol.??


One major problem in the acceptance of smart cards is that there is no one standard. In addition to the ISO standards, other significant standards are the Europay, MasterCard and Visa (EMV), the Global Standard for Mobile Communications (GSM), the Personal Computer/Smart Card (PC/SC) and the OpenCard Framework. Since the technology continues to evolve, the standards need to evolve also.?


The most common smart cards are plastic with the dimensions of 85.60mm x 53.98x 0.80mm, with a printed circuit and an integrated circuit chip embedded in the card. ISO standard 7816/3 provides five connection points for power and data. The printed circuit is hermetically fixed on the card and is burned onto the circuit chip, filled with a conductive material and sealed. The integrated circuit chip provides the individual capability for each card. To avoid breakage, the chip is restricted to a few millimeters in size. The physical interface is normally limited to 9600 bits per second. The bi-directional serial transmission line conforms to ISO standard 7816/3, and since information is sent in half duplex mode, data is transmitted in one direction at a time.?


Applications
In order to provide highly assured and trusted applications, smart cards are normally used in conjunction with other technologies. Besides being one of the most important uses of smart card technology, access control is also the motivation behind smart card development.?