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    ISO 14443 contactless card

    An international standard for proximity or contactless smart card communication

    ISO 14443 contactless card

    ISO 14443 is an international standard which describes how contactless cards and terminals should work to ensure industry-wide compatibility, for example in identity, security, payment, mass-transit and access control applications.

    ISO standards are developed by the ISO, the International Organization for Standardization. Technical committees comprising experts from the industrial, technical and business sectors develop the standards to increase levels of quality, reliability and interoperability on a global scale.

    Gemplus has always had a strong involvement in ISO definition of the chip card standards, and has been represented in the development of this international standard. The ISO 14443 is divided into 4 separate parts outlining physical characteristics, radio frequency power and signal interface, initialization and anti-collision and transmission protocol.

    Gemplus has developed a wide range of contactless payment solutions based on the ISO 14443 international standard. The speed and convenience of contactless technology has created a significant demand for this sort of solution in environments such as fast food restaurants, gas stations, public transport services, banks and many others.

    What changes to contactless standards and technology are expected in the future?

    Many vendors are actively developing new technologies to address the increasing market need for secure contactless technologies for a wide variety of applications. Changes in government regulations will also provide opportunities for enhancing contactless technology performance. It is important to note, however, that standards development is a lengthy process so it takes time for new technology developments to be reflected in standards that help to drive the availability of interoperable solutions. A few examples of new technologies that are expected include:

    • Changes to technology based on the ISO/IEC 15693 standard. Contactless cards supporting the ISO/IEC 15693 standard currently operate at 1.65 Kb/sec to meet FCC limits on sideband power in this frequency range. The FCC is expected to lift its restriction in late 2002, which would allow cards based on the ISO/IEC 15693 standard to improve their data rates.
    • Changes for higher speed operation. ISO working groups plan to add higher speed modes of operation to ISO/IEC 14443. This will increase the speed supported by this standard from 106 Kb/sec to the 848 Kb/sec that has already been demonstrated by IC manufacturers.
    • Alternative access control reader networking solutions. Wireless readers offer a significant advantage in lower costs of installation, particularly in older facilities. New security approaches can ensure strong authenticated channels between hosts or panels and new wireless readers. IP readers also permit direct connectivity to LANbased management and control applications.
    • The ability for a single contactless chip in a card to operate in full ISO/IEC 14443 and ISO/IEC 15693 modes.

    Is there a risk of someone listening or stealing the information from a contactless card?

    One risk with contactless cards is the ability for the card to be activated when it enters a reader’s RF range without the owner being aware of it. To prevent a contactless card activation without the card owner being aware of it, the application can be configured to always ask for the owner’s authorisation (password, PIN or biometric) before providing any user information or processing on the user’s behalf.


    e level of security of communication required between the contactless card and the reader must be defined as part of the system design and security controls must put in place so that un-invited listeners cannot intercept the data in any meaningful way. For example, all of the contactless technologies can use data encryption to protect data on the card and during transmission; this helps to ensure that, if information is intercepted, the information cannot be used by the recipient. It is important that all of the application’s requirements be understood and defined prior to any technology selection and implementation so that the appropriate security features are designed into the system.
    Additionally, the contactless chip is designed to self destruct if anyone tries to hack into it.