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What Are the Different Types of Integrated Circuit Cards?

By L.S. Ware
Updated May 16, 2024
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Integrated circuit cards (ICCs), commonly known as smart cards, are a part of numerous electronic devices, mobile devices, credit cards and the like. The many types of integrated circuit cards fit into two main categories: memory cards and microprocessor cards. Smart cards are utilized in numerous fields and applications throughout the world. They help to provide identification and allow for the storage of data.

A memory card merely stores data, though it might contain some specific security logic. Read-only memory, random access memory, programmable read-only memory, erasable programmable memory and electronically erasable programmable memory are the most often used memory types for integrated circuit cards. Memory cards are divided into three primary types. Straight memory cards are the oldest variation and cannot process data — they can only store it. The addition of built-in security logic creates the protected memory card, and the stored value memory card allows for reading and writing of the date, making the cards rechargeable.

Microprocessor cards not only store data, they also interact and transact. A microprocessor ICC allows for improved cryptographic security and expanded usability. This creates the possibility for multi-functionality and features such as the ability to update the data that is stored on the card.

Memory cards and microprocessor cards are then broken into the two primary types known as contact and contactless. Various combinations of memory, microprocessor, contact and contactless create many additional types of integrated circuit cards. Some examples are hybrid cards, dual-interface cards and multi-component cards.

Mobile phones worldwide make use of a memory only smart card known as a universal integrated circuit card (UICC) or its predecessor, the subscriber identification module (SIM). Smart cards also are used in security settings to facilitate single sign-on (SSO). Microprocessor cards are found in many areas of use, including credit cards, phone cards, access badges and identification cards.

Contact smart cards are integrated circuit cards governed by International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards ISO 7810 and ISO 7816. The contact card is the most common example of an integrated circuit card, partially because of its usage in prepaid telephone cards. Payment cards are most often contact cards, though some are both contact and contactless.

Proximity cards, as contactless integrated circuit cards that are governed by ISO 14443 are more widely known, are another type of smart card. The proximity card works by transmitting and receiving radio frequencies when in range of an antenna and reader. Examples of this include cards used at automatic tollbooths and automatic security gates.

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