The high-tech sibling of the bar code. A smart card is a plastic card, about the size of a credit card, embedded with a microchip that can store programmable data. It is frequently used in Europe to store electronic cash or to pay for telephone calls, public transportation, tollbooths, or parking. When the cash value of the card is depleted, it can be restocked to continue serving its purpose.
Smart cards actually come in two types:
memory cards and processor cards. The memory card is the basic type, and its memory chip can store a few kilobytes of numbers.
The processor card looks like a memory card but is more sophisticated: in addition to read-or-write memory, it has a tiny microprocessor and a small amount of read-only memory that contains the software for its embedded computer chip. The processor card typically contains an 8-bit microprocessor, 16K of program storage, and 32K of read-or-write memory (the equivalent of a wallet-sized PC).
To execute a purchase in the real world, the smart card uses radio frequency identification (RFID) that sends data (such as the cost of your purchase) to a transmitter, which then processes it against your bank account, resulting in a wireless and paperless transaction. Smart cards rely on electricity from a smart card reader for the power they need to run.
Wireless smart cards, however, do not require electricity; instead, they have a built-in antenna that absorbs energy from nearby short-range electromagnetic fields. All smart cards are designed to protect the integrity of their data from theft or tampering. Are smart cards the future?
It may sound a little strange but apparently, everyday objects can be made intelligent via "smart" devices. A smart toy, for example, can be continually "refreshed" if the parent purchases a peripheraldevice and a home PC, downloads music, and transfers it to the toy. We've even heard of something called smart shoelaces. The smart card is a practical implementation of a useful, next-generation technology, but do we need smart toys? It sounds like technology gone awry, just waiting to happen.