Contactless smart cards can send information without needing to connect electronic devices especially access control or time and attendance systems. Smart cards data usually include a personnel code, identification number, or any other number. Reading card information requires external electronic energy, which is supplied from card readers.
What are contactless smart cards?
As its name suggests, a contactless smart card looks like a credit card. They can store (and sometimes process) information and communicate with a terminal through NFC. Tickets for public transportation, credit cards, and passports are just a few examples. Contactless smart cards contain multiple layers:
- First and last layer: these layers are tailor-made for organizations and companies' requests.
- Middle layer: mid-layers include an IC and a winding that plays the role of an antenna.
How Do Contactless Smart Cards Work?
Communication in contactless smart cards, or digital smart cards, is always one-way. The method of reading smart card information is that the electrical energy is sent in a reader's waveform by a card reader. This wave is received by an antenna, embedded in a smart card, and converted to a voltage. Then information, stored in an IC, is sent to a contactless card reader.
Types of Contactless Smart Cards
In terms of RFID frequency bands, contactless smart cards are divided into several categories, most important of which are Low-Frequency, High-Frequency, and Ultra-High Frequency.
1. Low-frequency Contactless Smart Cards (125KHz)
Low-frequency, or LF smart cards, are mainly used in identification and access control systems. Low-frequency smart cards have a lower reading range and communication speed than other types of contactless smart cards, are used in simple identification or tag keys. Due to their waves' shape, LF smart cards are less affected by other radio signals and materials in the environment, such as water and metal, which makes them the right choice in industrial environments. Different types of this category include HID Prox, Indalla Prox, Keri Prox, ioProx, EM4102, and HITAG.
2. High-frequency Contactless Smart Cards (13.56MHz)
High-frequency cards, or 13.56 MHz cards, are smart cards with a high frequency of reading up to 1 meter. HF smart card is used for university identification cards, access control as well as identification, payments, and transport as a ticket. 13.56MHz HF cards are covered by ISO/IEC 14443A/B or ISO/IEC 15693 standards. HF contactless cards are often chosen for applications that require secure communication and large amounts of data to be shared between card and card readers.
3. Ultra-high Frequency Smart Cards (UHF)
UHF follows the EPC global Gen2 standard and uses the 850—960MHz frequency band to provide data transfer and much longer read ranges, up to 10 meters, than LF or HF cards. UHF labels and tags are used extensively in warehousing and goods tracking, while UHF cards are popular for location and attendance tracking applications. UHF is negatively affected by materials in the environment, including metals and liquids but is the best choice for applications that require a long read range and simultaneous reading of a large number of tags.
Application of Contactless Smart Cards
Contactless smart cards are used in cases such as electronic payments, time and attendance devices, and as a ticket for public Transportation.