Everything is “smart” nowadays, right? You’ve got smartphones seemingly in everyone’s hands, SMART Boards in schools, and a growing number of those, ah, unique-looking smart cars on the road. In the plastic cards industry, we’re keeping pace with our (you guessed it!) smart cards.
Used most often as identification cards for employees and contractors, smart cards are also making inroads among hospitals, casinos and hotels that need more data and ID security than what’s offered by traditional magnetic stripes (like the ones on a credit card). In fact, smart cards are the next generation of mag stripe technology and can be used in virtually any mag stripe application.
You may have heard about the embedded integrated circuits in smart cards. That’s just a fancy term for the microchip that’s placed in the card. These chips are programmed to a specific frequency (similar to radio waves), and – unlike mag stripes, which can be read by any type of mag stripe reader – the chips can only be accessed by scanners that contain the same programming. So, you can see why smart cards are more secure.
Decide If Smart Cards Are Right for You
However, with additional security also comes some additional costs. Smart cards, as you might guess, are more expensive than barcodes and mag stripes. And, before you even think about plastic card printing, you have to purchase and program the scanning system.
So, if you think smart cards might be the way you want to go, I recommend asking yourself the following two questions:
1. Does your organization, or the specific application you’re thinking about, require the increased security of smart cards? If you’re dealing with protected health information, restricted access to physical locations or large amounts of money, then a smart card might be the answer. But, for typical gift cards and loyalty cards, this technology is probably over the top. You can spend your resources more wisely.
2. Are you ready to change your entire system in order to use smart cards? When smart cards first came out, the creators were anticipating the demise of the magnetic stripe. Although that may happen some time in the future, it won’t be soon. That’s because every retailer, bank and other B2C business owner must invest in new smart card systems, which are, as I mentioned, quite expensive. You need to decide if this type of major system upgrade is worth it.
Smart Card Printing Is the Easy Part
Thankfully, printing the smart cards themselves is the easy part! Here’s what you need to know:
- Although custom die-cut cards may present a problem, there are no other design limitations with a smart card.
- Need even more security than a smart card provides? Add a holograms to your design.
- Decide your smart card brand preference (at Plastek Cards, we carry four major brands, as well as generic ones) and system requirements. You system will dictate contact and contactless smart cards. (More about this in my next post.)
From there, you’re on your way to greater security with today’s most advanced plastic card technology. Pretty smart, eh?