Card Technology - Memory Cards
There are many different types of memory cards. PCMCIA cards, Laser cards, Holographic cards, 2D Barcodes and magnetic stripe cards – all have memory capacity and all have their uses.
Today, it is the ISO 7816 compliant memory card that receives the greatest attention – particularly as they are often erroneously referred to as "smart" cards.
An ISO 7816 compliant chip card is that which is embedded with a module comprising a silicon die interfaced via gold filaments to gold/nickel/copper alloy contact pads which sit flush with the plastic surface of the card. The construction is designed to comply with all of the ISO standards for flex and torsion thus rendering the technology useful for applications where the card will reside in peoples pockets and wallets.
In the case where the silicon die is etched with a memory circuit only, the card is referred to as a memory card.
Memory cards range from the very low end – typically payphone cards with a preset number of decrementable units. These cards are generally used for one use / disposable applications – through to memory cards with built in security logic circuits.
The security logic allows for PIN level security to protect confidential memory segments. The higher level memory cards also have a provision for secret data eg encryption keys which cannot even be accessed by the rightful card holder.
The memory capacity of ISO 7816 compliant memory cards ranges from 128 bytes through to 1 kbyte. Some manufacturers continue to produce memory cards of up to 2 kbytes but these are now rarely required. The memory type used is EEPROM, Electrically Erasable Read Only Memory. This is non-volatile and so retains information without a direct power source. The lifetime of the memory is of the order of 10,000 read/write cycles.
Overall, memory cards provide portable memory beyond the capacity of standard magnetic stripe technology (up to 8 – 16 times) with an increased level of security.
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