Card Technology - Contactless Cards

Contactless cards are either memory or smart cards which interface the outside world via radio signalling over the air rather than direct physical electrical contact.

Modern contactless cards use the principles of magnetic induction to power a chip laminated into the core of a plastic card. One company has patented the embedding of a contact/contactless module just as with traditional contact only modules. Either way, the presence of an alternating electromagnetic field through a coil creates an electromotive force which propels electrons around the coil. The power generated by this current is sufficient to engage the chip and so provide the energy necessary for two way communication.

Generally it is agreed that the operating frequency of these cards is 13.56 MHz. Unfortunately there is not yet an ISO Standard for the communications protocol. Work is currently underway on the development of ISO 14443 which will provide the industry with a Standard such that cards and transceivers from different companies will interwork. The establishment of this standard will see contactless cards rapidly taken up in a range of applications.

The essential advantage of contactless technology is self evident. Being contactless, there are no electromechanical parts in the reading devices. In field maintenance costs are therefore substantially reduced. Further, there is no need to physically insert a card in a slot or swipe it through a reader therefore throughput at busy access points is greatly enhanced. This is of particular importance to public transport operators for whom people movement is critical to operational success.

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    Standard Magnetics
    Watermark Magnetics
    Memory Cards
    Smart Cards

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