Businesses and individuals across the world rely on identification systems for everyday needs. They are used to process credit and debit transactions, regulate controlled environments, manage access to remote locations, and provide novel payment methods. Identification cards have existed since the dawn of communication. While early ID cards were used to verify the sender of a message or document, they have evolved significantly to fit a variety of applications.
The credit card was originally invented in the mid-20th century. It was a metal card, with an identification number etched into its surface. While these cards couldn’t be processed electronically, they were able to speed up many financial transactions. A business would run these early credit cards through a card ‘reader’ which would create a facsimile of the card number on carbon paper. This provided an early proof of identity system for merchant transactions.
Many card companies are incorporating RFID smart card technology into their debit and credit cards. This allows a user to pay for a purchase without taking a card out of his or her wallet. A user simply holds their wallet against an RFID reader. After entering a personal PIN number, their transaction is processed like a traditional debit or credit card.
Modern ID cards can be used for hundreds of different applications. With the advent of smart cards, businesses can conduct transactions remotely. One of the most common uses for smart cards is in mass transit systems. A commuter purchases a transit pass, which is valid for a variable length of time. As the rider passes through a turn style, he or she swipes the card over the surface of a card reader, which grants the rider access to the transit system.
Early subway stations required a token to enter the transit station. These tokens could be forged easily, and could not be customized to provide discounts for frequent commuters. Modern smart cards can’t be forged easily, and allow commuters to purchase a one-time pass, daily pass, or monthly pass. In addition, a lost card can be replaced without a commuter losing their remaining balance.
While mass transit uses RFID smart card systems over a distance of a few inches, some RFID technology allows a smart card to be scanned from dozens of feet away. Many toll road systems provide RFID smart card access passes for daily commuters. A traditional toll booth slows down traffic, requires human resources, and is a headache for many commuters. Many toll road operators have installed fast-lanes at toll both locations, where drivers can prepay their toll.
Drivers are issued an RFID smart card pass, which is affixed to a front wind shield. As the driver passes through the toll both fast-lane, a high speed RFID reader automatically deducts the toll from a driver’s prepaid account. Commuters who drive through a fast-pass lane without a prepaid card have a photo taken of their plates, and are ticketed.
The Future of Card Technology
As production costs have decreased, many ID cards can be printed on-demand with smart card technology. This allows for many novel uses. An ID card can be attached to a load of freight or high-value package, allowing a logistics company to track its location while it’s transported. It may be possible to walk out of a grocery store without visiting a checkout lane — RFID tagged groceries will be automatically charged to a shopper’s account when he or she leaves.
As ID technology evolves, new applications and usage will increase business productivity, improve a consumer’s experience, and offer a new level of convenience.
Steve Stoltz is a sales representative at CardPrinter.com, an ID Badge Printer retailer that sells a variety of high quality, all-in-one Laminating Card Printer packages designed to serve the needs of companies both big and small.