The smart card is one of the latest additions to the world of information technology. Similar in size to today's plastic payment card, the smart card has a microprocessor or memory chip embedded in it that, when coupled with a reader, has the processing power to serve many different applications. As an access-control device, smart cards make personal and business data available only to the appropriate users. Another application provides users with the ability to make a purchase or exchange value.
Smart cards provide data portability, security and convenience. Smart cards come in two varieties: memory and microprocessor. Memory cards simply store data and can be viewed as a small floppy disk with optional security. A microprocessor card, on the other hand, can add, delete and manipulate information in its memory on the card. Similar to a miniature computer, a microprocessor card has an input/output port operating system and hard disk with built-in security features.
On a fundamental level, microprocessor cards are similar to desktop computers. They have operating systems, they store data and applications, they compute and process information and they can be protected with sophisticated security tools. The self-containment of smart card makes it resistant to attack as it does not need to depend upon potentially vulnerable external resources. Because of this characteristic, smart cards are often used in different applications, which require strong security protection and authentication.