What are the utilities of smart cards?

Uses of Smart Cards

Smart cards currently exist for a vast array of applications. However, the expected growth in the industry will not be due merely to growth in these segments, but also to the addition of the Internet and electronic commerce with their myriad of uses.

Current Applications
A smart card, as mentioned above, is a portable computational device with data storage ability. As such, they can be a very reliable form of personal identification and a tamper-proof, secure information repository. The main possible applications of smart cards are the following:

Outside of the United States there is a widespread use of payphones equipped with card readers rather than ­p; or in addition to ­p; coin recognition and storage. The main advantages are that the phone company does not have to collect coins, and the users do not have to have coins or remember long access numbers and PIN codes. Smart cards have the further advantage over magnetic stripe cards of being reloadable, and allowing advanced features like phone banking, automatic memory dialing and on-line services.

Mobile Communications
Smart cards are used as identification device for GSM digital mobile phones. The card stores all the necessary information in order to properly identify and bill the user, so that any user can use any phone terminal.

Banking & Retail
Smart banking cards can be used as credit, direct debit or stored value cards, offering a counterfeit- and tamper-proof device. The intelligent microchip on the card and the card readers use mutual authentication procedures that protect users, merchants and banks from fraudulent use. Other services enabled by smart cards are advanced loyalty programs and electronic coupons.

Electronic Purse
A smart card can be used to store a monetary value for small purchases. Card readers retrieve the amount currently stored, and subtract the amount for the goods or services being purchased. Groceries, transportation tickets, parking, laundromats, cafeterias, taxis and all types of vending machines are only some of the purchases that often do not reach amounts to justify the hassle of using a credit card (a cash card reader does not require a permanent phone connection with a host computer). Radio-read smart cards will allow the free flow of people through transportation systems, avoiding the need of ticketing machines or validation gates.

Health Care
Smart cards allow the information for a patient's history to be reliably and safely stored. Health care professionals can instantaneously access such information when needed, and update the content. Instant patient verification allows immediate insurance processing and refund. Doctors and nurses themselves can carry smart card-based IDs that allow secure, multi-level access to private information.

ID Verification and Access Control
The computational power of smart cards allows running mutual authentication and public-key encryption software in order to reliably identify the bearer of the card. For higher security needs, a smart card is a tamper-proof device to store such information as a user's picture or fingerprints. Smart cards can be used also for network access: in addition or in alternative to user IDs and passwords, a networked computer equipped with a smart card reader can reliably identify the user.
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