SALES AND MARKETING – Get Ready for the Smart Card Revolution

Smart cards are credit-card sized plastic ID devices equipped with a memory chip for data, a unique serial number, and sometimes a processing chip. As security becomes more important to more people and applications more diverse, the number of smart card deployments within the United States will increase.

Many involved in the smart card market are quick to admit that acceptance has not been as forthcoming in the U.S. as it has been in Europe and Asia. The likely reason is these regions lack a well-developed telecommunications and banking system such as those found throughout most of North America. The secondary cause is the American culture. Regardless of the causes, experts say smart cards will eventually penetrate the North American market. Smart cards are extremely versatile and more reliable than magnetic stripe cards, and they can retain 100 times more information.

“As for magnetic stripe, if anyone is thinking in a security venue, why would you use it anyway, for it’s way too easy to copy?” says Daniel Budinoff, president of Security Specialists of Stamford, Conn., which installs access control systems that include smart card technology.

Cards can now be equipped with multiple technologies that allow end users to take advantage of their existing systems while planning ahead for upgrades in the future.

“The bottom line is that down the road, it will be the access control technology [of choice]. There is no question of that,” Budinoff adds. “We will move away from the standard magnetic stripe and proximity cards and we will move to a smart card [solution] because you can do so much with it.”

Experts in the access control field agree that security is on the cusp of revolutionary changes fueled by smart card technology. In fact, they say the smart card revolution is sure to take place this year. Through open standards, ongoing goverment involvement, growing consumer acceptance and a greater awareness among security firms, those who offer smart cards to their clients now could see a huge gains in the years to come.

Security is Just 1 of 4 Types of Smart Cards
From a functionally standpoint, there are four types of cards in use. They are the memory card, processor card, the stored value card and a security card.

Functionally, the memory card is about the lowest on the totem pole of the smart card family. There are three basic types of memory cards, with a variation of cards in between that pertain to the work security dealers do.

The first is a simple memory card that is able to store information. Some experts compare it to a floppy disk without a lock feature. In other words, anyone that can connect to this card will be able to read and write to it. The second is a smart memory card, which uses built-in logic to prevent unauthorized tampering or use of the data on board. The third is a processor card that includes both memory and a microprocessor that is capable of allocating memory and file access. This card is capable of carrying out a variety of functions related to security as well as other aspects of society, such as financial transactions and the like.

The stored value smart card is used for applications such as prepaid telephone cards and as an electronic purse (E-purse). Security is carried out using a password or system key installed at the time the card is manufactured. This type of card is made up of counters or decrements with little memory allocated to anything else. Once these cells are depleted, the card can either be thrown away or recharged.

Drivers Needed to Spur Widespread Use of the Technology There are several things necessary before smart cards will take hold, and several of them are already in place.

Perhaps the most important driver will be open standards by which smart card manufacturers can produce cards that work on anyone’s operating platform. The second is consumer acceptance. Without widespread demand, the smart card effort within the security sector will be doomed. The third is the security dealer’s willingness to push the envelope by learning to sell, install and service a new card technology. The word “integration” will become well known to those who embark on this new journey.

It has been said by some that the original intent behind the invention and continued push of smart cards is cashless transactions, such as transit and vending/cafeteria payments. In an entirely cashless environment, an E-purse will be one of many ways consumers will do business. Best of all, the same smart card has the ability to allow them through the door.

Industry leaders HID and Indala offer single cards that contain both proximity and contactless formats. This offers people the privilege of using existing proximity readers while slowly ramping up to smart card technology. This is an ideal way to upgrade existing access control systems and a great way to encourage your clients to take the next steps to consider new applications.

Government Promotes Implementation of Chips Through Mandates
Open standards and a slew of legislation are already in place to assure smart cards become a way of life in the U.S. Currently, smart cards are used in a variety of government applications related to security.

“This started with the [Department of Defense] and deployment of the Common Access Card (CAC),” says Debra Spitler, president of Irvine, Calif.-based OMNIKEY Americas. “The CAC is used for logical access control and as an ID badge. There are some agencies that are beginning to use a multitechnology card to include physical and logical access, but the largest smart card deployment — the CAC — is not used for physical access control today.”

In government and many private corporate environments, fingerprint biometric readers that employ smart cards as part of the authentication process are being used for secure computer logon.

Last August, President Bush outlined Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 (HSPD-12), which calls for a common identification standard for all federal employees and contractors. HSPD-12 will likely fuel interest in smart card technology during the next few years to the point where anyone who seriously intends to participate in the access control market will have to offer smart card readers and cards.

Open Standards Are Crucial, but Not the Total Solution to Adoption
We have already discussed some government standard programs, but there are plenty of others that work at the nuts and bolts level. A small sample includes the International Standards Organization (ISO), OpenCard Framework, NIST, and the Open Security Exchange (OSE).

Without an open standard, one security manufacturer’s access control reader will not function with another vendor’s smart card and visa versa. But even with open standards, there will still be some rebels among the smart card manufacturers. Even if there were a single standard by which all manufacturers could comply, the reader end of the smart card equation is where standardization could fall short.

“What will continue to happen in the security market is that there will always be people who want to do things their own way,” says Douglas Cram, vice president of sales and marketing with AWID Applied Wireless ID in Monsey, N.Y. “There will always be a proprietary hook in there and that’s unfortunate. Everyone with existing smart cards likes to blow the ISO horn, but guess what? ISO is an open standard. If you are true ISO, all your cards will work with anyone’s reader, and that is simply not the case. While we throw [the slogan] ‘ISO Compliant’ around, it’s not true where proprietary products are concerned.”

Not everyone in the access control market agrees.

“In reality, the mechanisms are not proprietary but the methods in which the mechanisms are used can vary from supplier
to supplier,” Spitler says. She adds that in many cases, customers specify how their keys are defined and who may access these keys. Many, such as Cram, might view this as proprietary, but others see it as adding security to the technology.

ISO standards control basic elements such as setting the physical dimensions of the card and outlining the exact location for embedded contact smart ship modules, Spitler says. Truth be known, there are at least 35 ISO standards geared to smart cards. Which one to use depends on what a person intends to do with them.

Don’t Let Anxiety and Fear Hold Back Smart Card Implementation

Apprehension and fear comes with an oncoming technology that is sometimes difficult to understand, and holds implications well beyond the normal technical challenges associated with traditional security. But whether one agrees with chip technology or not, it is going to happen.

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