50 ways to read your smart card

Reading Time: 3 minutes

There are all sorts of ways to read your smart card – and I think Paul Simon would agree that there are lots of great reasons for doing so.

Smart cards are great for a simple reason. They are currently the best option right now for securely holding your login and account data. But not all smart cards are created equally. They contain a varied range of technologies of which the most important three are the chip for physical contact, NFC (Near Field Communication), and dual interface – both chip and NFC together. The type of technology in the card influences what types of readers are needed.

In this video we show you different smart card readers and how to use them. If you prefer to read, the blog article continues below.

Let’s walk you through the basic types of smart card readers

At the basic level, they range from touch to no touch.  The classic contact readers require the card be physically inserted. Then there are pure NFC card readers that connect to the computer via a USB connection. Some even come with a small bracket so they can be mounted under a desk or counter. In addition, there are readers which combine NFC with a physical contact reader. Typically, these are in a price range of between 10 to 30 euros.

Smart card readers can go small – like your SIM card

Then there are the card readers that think small. They are designed to take a smaller version of a smart card that’s about the size of the classic phone SIM card.  Put in the card into the USB device, put on the lid, and just plug it into your machine. These can come with a USB C or a lightning connector if someone want to use it with mobile phones.

Smart card readers can be super secure – and convenient

Card readers can also be part of a secure authentication system. For example, the Yubikey, is a USB-connected device that generates a unique pass code every time you touch the button.  While a Yubikey is often seen as synonymous with the FIDO set of 2FA standards, this model also actually holds a chip for users with a smart card. It is a combined smart card reader as well as a smart card. The same goes with a Gemalto token– it is a physical USB token with room for a chip.

Card readers are also quite convenient like the butterfly reader which you can just close and carry it around with you, open and connect it to your machine via the USB.

Readers can go wireless with Bluetooth

Some readers have gone wireless, freeing the user from directly connecting the device to their phone or computer. The Certgate card reader looks like a car key but actually uses Bluetooth with an encrypted channel communication where the chip is inside. It communicates with the PC or any other device that is capable of using Bluetooth. They can be for physically inserting the smart card, NFC only, or both options together.

Think about the built-in options

Card readers can also be built directly into your device components like the keyboard or laptop case. Costing about 20, 30 euros, this standard keyboard has a built-in card reader keyboard. It’s not expensive and is quite straightforward.

Then finally, the laptop itself can come equipped with a card reader. In a Lenevo ThinkPad laptop, there is the TPM chip – trusted platform module. This means there combined chip reader capacity literally built into the machine.

Ready to read in every situation

All of these readers and devices – whether they are dual capacity, NFC, wireless with Bluetooth, or built in – show that you have many options to use that secure and robust smart card with your choice of device and do it in any location.


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