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4. Contactless Smart Card

How does it work?

  • Contactless smart card = any pocket-sized card with embedded integrated circuits that can process and store data, communicates with a terminal via radio waves.  
  • Just like its predecessor, contactless smart card has the degree of functionality and additionally the convenience of contactless transaction. 
  • Basically, it is a chip card equipped with an antenna.


  • Applications can be found on various forms such as transport card, payment card & banking card, identification card, credit card, access card, etc.
  • For example, NL started to use contactless smart card to replace all paper public transport ticket nationwide in circa 2010. Users need to top up the ticket card in order to use it, where by the fare will be debited from.
  • In the US, MasterCard introduced PayPass® card (credit, debit, and prepaid) a couple of years ago to add extra convenience to its customers.


MIFARE is the brand of contactless chip:

  • 50 million reader and 5 billion card components sold worldwide       
  • Available in 650 cities around the world
  • Market share of more than 77% in the automatic fare collection industry

It is to expect that MIFARE chip will be compatible almost everywhere around the world.


The main advantages of contactless smart card are :

  • Highly practical and convenient    
  • Fast transaction speed
  • Multi functional due to its high ability to process data
  • 2 chips can be combined into 1 card

 Points to consider:

  • Higher production cost
  • New technology (reader  + encoder + server), thus joint investment is required
  • Virtually no user control + risk of radio frequency interception

Case Study

  • ISIC Slovakia Academic Co-brand: All private and public universities are co-branded with ISIC and equipped with a Mifare Classic 4KB chip + Mifare Desfire chip and these are used for access management school, library, copy machines, access to public transport on buses, trains, and inner city transports as well as ID card.
  • ISIC Switzerland IFA University: The card is used for access control and payment for using copying machines at the school. The card is equipped with Mifare Classic 1KB.
  • ISIC Taiwan: ISIC EasyCard: The ISIC–EasyCard co-branded card is used for payment card, school card, and also used in Taipei Metro network as transport card.
  • ISIC France EM Lyon (Lyon School of Management)The EM Lyon co-branded card is equipped with a Mifare 1k chip and is used for the school’s access control, payment method in different premises within the school; e.g. cafeteria, library, etc.

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