What is a Smart Card Reader?

Smart cards are a pocket-sized card that has a built-in chip. The embedded computer chip stores data and transacts data when prompted. Whether this data transaction is to gain access, confirm personal identification, or to purchase, smart cards offer complete convenience and security for the user. The smart card reader is used to communicate the transaction between the smart card and the host.

The different types of Smart Card Readers

There are two main types of smart card readers – contact and contactless. While both are used as a communications medium, they both have their differing individual uses.

Contact Smart Card Reader – This type of reader requires the smart card to be inserted into the smart card reader. A contact smart card reader is most commonly used when higher security is required. For instance, to ensure security during financial transactions, government identification, and loyalty cards.

Contactless Smart Card Reader – This type of reader does not require the card to be manually inserted. Instead, the user just simply has to hold the card within close proximity to the smart card reader. Contactless smart card readers use radio frequencies to communicate to the host when the smart card is being held close. Therefore, contactless smart card readers offer speediness and convenience to gain entry, pay for parking, and purchase low-value items in store.

The Uses of Smart Card Readers

Now, lets take a look at some of the use cases of smart card readers…

Security – Smart cards readers, when combined with smart cards, offer a great level of security as they restrict access to authorized users. This can be both physical access to areas or rooms, or logical, such as access to computers or computer applications. A typical reader used for physical access is the HID® iCLASS R10.

Hospitality – Smart cards and card readers are widely used throughout the hospitality industry, in organizations such as hotels, casinos, gaming and theme parks. They are used for a wide variety of applications including room access, spa access, loyalty, cashless vending and more. These smart card readers can be contact or contactless depending on the application and level of security required.

Education – Smart card readers are widely used in schools, colleges and universities. When linked to students’ ID cards they can be used for a wide variety of purposes including access control (door entry), enrolment, attendance recording, cashless catering and more.

Commerce – Smart card readers are widely used for commerce applications and these are typically used to process card payments for both in-store and for mail order purchases. These readers are typically chip and pin and also offer contactless technology to make the customers transaction quick and easy.

Health Care – In healthcare organizations smart cards are widely used for staff identification. This is normally to allow access to restricted areas, that may for example contain controlled drugs or patient records, these readers are normally situated on the doors to rooms and a card is presented to the reader to allow access to only those with the relevant access rights. Readers are also used in healthcare for access to computers, giving the user access to healthcare applications and patient records, a reader such as the OMNIKEY® 3121 is a popular choice for healthcare organizations, where the user inserts their chip card and enters a password to provide two-factor authentication.

Loyalty – For loyalty systems, a smart card can track and offer incentives to repeat customers. For instance, it can store information on how many purchases a customer has made to offer a deal on the fifth purchase. The readers for this application tend to be PC-linked USB readers, where a customer will present or insert their card, depending on the type of reader used which may be contact or contactless.

Finance/Banking – A smart card reader can allow a customer to transfer funds electronically, 24/7. Offering customers personal finance access whenever they need it. This is widely used by banks, who send out smart card readers for the customer to use for accessing online banking facility or approving transactions.

These are just a handful of popular uses for smart card readers, but they can be used in a wide variety of industries and applications.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, a smart card reader is used to communicate with the smart card and the host. Whether the host is a point of sale terminal, computer, or mobile telephone, the smart card reader offers complete security.

If you have any questions about how the use of a smart card reader could benefit your business, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today.