Barcode cards are based on visual technology: a number and a barcode, QR Code or Data Matrix are printed on them. With this type of technology, the data are fixed and cannot be changed. Loyalty cards and gift cards are typical examples of barcode cards.
Barcodes can be classified into two categories:
- 1D (one-dimensional). The information is organised horizontally in a series of bars and spaces of various widths, and is read from left to right. Capable of storing 20-25 characters, one-dimensional codes are suitable for identifying products whose information changes frequently. The 1D product identification code serves as a link to a database containing dynamic variable data on the product, such as price, description and manufacturer’s code.
- 2D (two-dimensional). These have a square shape containing a set of small black and white squares and are capable of storing up to 2,000 characters without the need to refer to a database. Examples of two-dimensional codes include QR Codes, Data Matrix codes and PDF417.
The following standards define the dimensions and characteristics of barcodes:
- EAN 8 EAN 13 – International standard ISO/IEC 15420
- Code 128 – International standard ISO/IEC 15417
- Code 39 – International standard ISO/IEC 16388
- Data Matrix – International standard ISO/IEC 16022
- QR Code – International standard ISO/IEC 18004
Magnetic stripe cards have a black or coloured stripe on the back. The magnetic stripe may be 12.7 mm high if it has 3 tracks, 10 mm high if it has 2 tracks, and 6 mm high if there is only 1 track. Typical examples include gift cards and retail cards.
Magnetic cards meet standard ISO 7811, which describes the location, encoding method and coercivity. Coercivity is the strength of the magnetic field measured in oersted (Oe) and magnetic stripes can have a coercivity of 300, 2750 or 4000 Oe. Based on the coercivity, magnetic bands can be classified into two groups: LoCo (low coercivity, 300 Oe), which is easily ‘demagnetised’; and HiCo (high coercivity, 2750 Oe and 4000 Oe), which is instead more resistant to magnetic fields. The higher the oersted value, the more secure the magnetic stripe.
The magnetic stripe can be applied to the card using two methods: flush-on (inserted during the lamination process), and roll-on (applied). It can be programmed/encoded in the three zones: Iso 1, Iso 2, Iso 3. At Partitalia we can analyse your magnetic cards, checking both the coercivity and type of programming.
Contact cards have a small gold-coloured electronic component called a ‘chip’ on the outside. It can be either square or rectangular in shape. The chip contains an electronic circuit, also known as a micromodule, holding a memory unit or microcontroller. The micromodule has 6 or 8 small slits, which are the contacts used to transfer data externally. The card is read by inserting it into a reader. This technology guarantees the utmost security.
Typical examples of chip cards include: retail cards, access control cards, electronic ID cards and health insurance cards.
Contact chip smart cards are regulated by the ISO 7816 international standard and can be grouped into three types:
- Free memory cards (I2C reading technology). These contain a built-in e2c bus chip, and have no password protection for reading and writing. The memory size varies from 2 kB to 1024 kB and the main applications relate to hotel cards and coffee machine configuration, where firmware downloads are required. Free memory cards include: 24C02, 24C04, 24C08, 24C16, 24C64, 24C128, 24C256, 24C512.
- Secure memory cards. These cards are the most common. Writing is password protected but reading is not. Dimensions range from a few bytes to 1 kB. They contain 4428, 4432 and 4442 chips. The main applications include fidelity and loyalty cards, cards that act as electronic wallets for non-banking operations, fuel cards, and hotel access-control cards.
- Microprocessor-based cards. These are used for applications requiring high security. They contain a mathematical processor that allows for data encryption and decryption (3DES, RSA, depending on the size of the encryption file). These types of cards usually carry on an operating system.
Contactless smart cards use RFID technology, which allows cards to be read without any contact with the reader. As with contact cards, RFID cards also contain an electronic component, but it is not visible from the outside. Typical examples of RFID badges include cards for access control and electronic door locks, badges to detect the number of people present and meal vouchers.
RFID technology works with the following components: a transponder or tag consisting of an electronic chip, an antenna and a reader, which allows information to be exchanged via electromagnetic waves. With RFID cards, the antenna is built into the card medium. The antenna and silicon chip are inserted during production and bonded to the two plastic layers of the card via lamination.
Radio-frequency technology allows contactless cards to be read from a greater distance and without the need for a specific orientation, guaranteeing greater reliability than any other card-reading technology. Indeed, to read cards with barcodes, the distance between the badge and reader must be small and the barcode must always be visible. Moreover, since the barcode is printed, it can be ruined by external agents such as water and dirt. Magnetic stripe cards are, instead, prone to demagnetisation and loss of content, while the external chip in contact cards can deteriorate over time as a result of exposure to dirt and wear.
Combo cards are ‘hybrid’ badges with mutually independent chips. They can combine up to two contact chips or three different RFID chips. The magnetic stripe and barcode can also naturally be added.
The main application of combo badges is for staff identification and attendance records when access control systems produced by different vendors are present. The interoperable features of combo cards enable the use of access control and attendance recording systems with different reading technologies, while users need carry only one badge in their wallets.
Combo cards are also used in the loyalty sector when systems supplied by different vendors are present.
Partitalia lists the following combo cards in its catalogue:
- Mifare Classic 1K EV1 S50 + EM4100
- Mifare Classic 1K EV1 S50 + EM4200
- Mifare Classic 4K EV1 S50 + EM4200
- Mifare Classic 1K EV1 S50 + T5567
- Mifare Classic 4K EV1 S50 + T5567
- Mifare Classic 1K EV1 S50 + 5555
- Mifare Classic 4K EV1 S50 + 5555
- RF81 + EM4200
- RF81 + T5567
- RF81 + 5555
DUAL INTERFACE CARDS
Dual interface cards are ‘hybrid’ cards that contain both contact and contactless technology. In this type of card, a single chip handles both contact and RFID transmission.
Dual interface cards operate in the HF range (high frequency – 13.56 MHz). They have similar characteristics to microprocessor contact cards: they contain a mathematical microprocessor that enables data encryption and decryption and usually feature an operating system. They are used for applications requiring a high level of security, such as ticketing, EMV payments and regional service cards.
The main advantage of dual interface cards is that they have the highest level of physical security, which is guaranteed by the chip contact card in an RFID card, which has a longer lifetime and is more convenient to use.
Mini-cards are smaller than standard format cards. These are non-ISO cards, that is, products other than those regulated by ISO standards.
3 up cards, pre-cut cards divided into three parts, which can be shared between members of the same family, are very popular.
Mini-cards have several applications:
- loyalty and fidelity cards, which have the same barcode on the back;
- cards for access control at hotels, swimming pools and gyms;
- credential cards (ID cards, like those used to duplicate house keys; one or two cards are produced for each door lock);
- event cards;
- labels for bags and luggage;
- key fobs.
RFID chips can be affixed to this type of card. Mini-cards and 3 up cards are usually made of PVC, but there is currently a demand for more environmentally sustainable materials such as degradable PVC and recycled PVC. PVC mini-cards and 3 up cards can be printed using various techniques (offset, silkscreen, laser, inkjet printing), and protected with an epoxy resin, which makes them stronger and rounds the edges. The resin can be applied to one or both sides of the mini-cards.