The day of the smartcard is at hand

Tuesday, 28 October 2003, 8:56 AM EST

It will not be long until a single card will allow you to make purchases (both as a credit and a debit card, maybe even using electronic cash); borrow a library book; make a phone call; gain access to your place of work; and participate in store loyalty schemes. It will contain your driving licence, passport, national insurance details, personnel and medical records.

The technology already exists - it is called a smartcard.

A smartcard looks like a standard credit card, both in size and material, but instead of having a magnetic stripe on the back it has a gold-coloured computer chip about one centimetre square embedded in it. Some credit cards already carry a chip, and they will become standard when chip and Pin payment methods become the norm by the end of 2005.

Smartcards can be smaller - as tiny as just the computer chip on a plastic base like those used in mobile phones. ISO standard 7816 defines the physical and logical features of smartcards, such as shape, position of contacts, their functions at the user interface, and their file structures.

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