What is a Smart Card Writer?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A smart card writer is a device that has the capability to write data onto smart cards. These devices can be used for a wide variety of applications involving smart cards and they are often sold as part of a complete package to people who want to enable smart card functionality on public transit, in a business, and in other applications. The cost of such devices varies depending on the manufacturer and the available features.

Man holding computer
Man holding computer

Smart cards are devices that contain a memory chip or microprocessor that can be used to store data or perform calculations. One common application of the smart card is in public transit, where regular riders can pay for their fares by loading up smart cards and swiping or waving them at transit terminals. Some credit card companies release smart card versions of their products and these devices can also be used for security access and a wide variety of other applications.

Because the information on a smart card is not designed to be static, it is necessary to have a device that can interface with a smart card to write on it. The smart card writer can overwrite data, reformat smart cards, or alter existing data. For example, when a transit rider recharges a card at a kiosk, the kiosk has writing capabilities so it can update the smart card with new information. Likewise, when a security officer encodes a smart card to give someone access to a secured facility, a smart card writer is used.

These devices may be capable of writing encrypted data and working with encrypted or otherwise secured smart cards. These cards have several layers of security designed to ensure they cannot be altered by people who are not authorized to do so. The information on the card is protected, allowing people to store sensitive and private data on a smart card. The smart card writer must be able to authenticate itself before the smart card will allow it to add or change data.

Because of concerns about the potential for forging or falsifying information, certain smart card systems have complex security. These systems are designed to prevent people from making false cards that could be used as counterfeits in the system and they also prevent people from changing the data on their smart cards. For example, transit cards are typically highly secured to prevent the use of forged or altered transit cards. These cards can only be written to by a smart card writer designed to be compatible with the system.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a EasyTechJunkie researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

@bythewell - We live in interesting times. I know a lot of cell phones are being sold now containing smart card technology. Smart card readers will accept them for transactions, just like if you were using a card.

I do wonder if one day we will all have our own smart card writers at home so that we can personify our own identity cards (or phones) which contain everything about us, including passports and drivers licences and so forth. You'd apply for a passport and be given a program to load into the reader and then you'd link it up to your card and from then on, it would only need to be scanned at an airport for all your information to come up.

Unfortunately, no matter how tight they make the security on that kind of thing, someone will always find a way around it, which may be why it hasn't happened yet, since they certainly have the technology to do it.


@pastanaga - I guess having your own smart card writer software will eventually be akin to owning a money printing press. Although I think we're starting to get to the point where you'll have to look at fooling identification monitors, rather than the smart card systems.

I know Disneyland, for example, will actually use fingerprint analysis to make sure that the same people are using their multi-day passes whenever they come in, rather than handing them off to other people to take advantage of the savings. There are airports where I've had my eyes scanned in order to keep a record of who I am as well.

If this information starts being linked to smart cards, they will be extremely safe. And I'm pretty sure this is going to happen eventually.


It'll be interesting to see what kinds of ways people will use to circumvent the system as smart cards become more and more a part of daily life. There's already a smart card company operating in my home city, which allows you to put money on the card and use it for discounted transport, as well as paying for other items at places like convenience stores and cinemas.

It's actually quite wonderful compared to using a credit card or a debit card, because it works so quickly. All you have to do is put your card on the smartcard reader and the money is taken off within seconds.

But, I'm not foolish enough to think that it's not going to eventually become prone to the same security problems as any other kind of transaction. It doesn't seem like there's any way to keep people from developing the technology to beat these kinds of systems, which is a shame.

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