A smart card is a security token that has an embedded chip. Smart cards are typically the same size as a driver's license and can be made out of metal or plastic. They connect to a reader either by direct physical contact (also known as chip and dip) or through a short-range wireless connectivity standard such as Near Field Communication (NFC).
The chip on a smart card can be either a microcontroller chip or an embedded memorychip. Smart cards are designed to be tamper-resistant and use encryption to provide protection for in-memory information. Those cards with a microcontroller chip have the ability to perform on-card processing functions and can add, delete and manipulate information in the chip's memory.The first mass use of smart cards was the Télécarte, a telephone card for payment in French pay phones which launched in 1983. Smart cards are now ubiquitous and are fast replacing magnetic stripe card technology, which only has a capacity of 300 bytes of non-rewriteable memory and no processing capability.
There are various international standards and specifications that cover smart card technology, with some focused on industry-specific applications. In the United States, smart card technology conforms to international standards (ISO/IEC 7816 and ISO/IEC 14443) and is championed by the Smartcard Alliance.