smart card manufacturer

ICMA – Smart Card Manufacturer

The ICMA is the leading global card association providing education, networking, and ideas for companies in the manufacturing and personalizing of cards. This includes debit and credit cards, ID cards, and more.

Complex cards often have a display screen and can include additional functionality such as a fingerprint sensor, a piezoelectric buzzer or a button. The addition of these components drives up the cost, power requirements and manufacturing complexity.


ICMA, the International Card Manufacturers Association, is the world’s leading non-profit organization that represents the interests of the global transaction card industry, including card manufacturers, personalizers and suppliers. ICMA provides members with expanded education and training, early knowledge of industry trends, and networking opportunities to promote business success.

ICMA produces three comprehensive card industry reports that provide valuable market data and forecasts. The 2020 State of the Card Industry Report and Global Card Manufacturing and Personalization and Fulfillment Statistics reports analyze unit growth for 12 vertical market segments, including prepaid phone, SIM mobile phone, financial, gift, government/health, transportation, retail and gas, loyalty and membership, access control and blanks cards.

The strongest card market segment revenue growth is expected to be in transportation cards, which include contactless smart cards that can store and carry multiple applications on a single IC chip. Transit systems around the world are moving away from paper based magnetic tickets to contactless, secure card-based systems that provide better service and convenience for frequent transit users. There are 2.3 billion transportation cards produced annually, according to ICMA’s 2012 Global Market Statistics Report.

ICMA also offers a number of card industry seminars and educational programs, and maintains the ACE (Advanced Card Technology) certification program to recognize individuals who have demonstrated advanced knowledge of the manufacture and personalization of plastic cards. ICMA also has an official standards representative who attends ISO and ANSI meetings to offer the perspective of card manufacturing to the development of new standards.

Complex Cards

Manufacturer of smart cards for identification, payment & passport applications. Offers smart card supplier turnkey systems integrator services such as designing, installation & maintenance. Serves industries including hospitality, retail, commercial & energy management. Founded in 1993.

In addition to having a chip, Complex Cards also incorporate a buzzer and one or more displays. This information is transmitted by sound using technologies such as DTMF or FSK. In most cases, the sound is used to transmit a One-Time Password that can be used to authenticate the card or its owner. Depending on the complexity of the application, a second display may be needed for transaction security purposes.

First generation Complex Cards require a battery to provide power even in standby mode. The inclusion of a battery adds cost, complexity, and space to the design. It also requires a cold lamination manufacturing process that affects the manufacturing lead time and overall cost of the card. Second generation battery-free Complex Cards harvest their power from external sources like a contactless reader or a smartphone. These cards also use a bistable display that only requires power to refresh the displayed data rather than powering up to display digits or alphanumeric characters.

The eMue Card from EMue Technologies is a good example of a second generation Complex smart card supplier Card. It uses a tamper-resistant security system, an embedded microprocessor and a secure file system to protect in-memory data. EMue’s biometric sensors can be incorporated into an ISO-compliant contactless card that requires no battery or supercapacitor.

First Generation

Roland Moreno patented the first memory card in 1974. By 1977, three commercial manufacturers, Bull CP8, SGS Thomson and Schlumberger were offering smart cards. These had a microprocessor, local memory and an external interface connected to the chip by copper connectors.

Contactless smart cards communicate with readers over radio-frequency interrogation protocols defined in the ISO/IEC 14443 standard. They are powered by an internal loop antenna coil that captures part of the incident radio-frequency interrogation signal and rectifies it to generate a digitally encoded application data unit (APDU).

These cards are readable only when in close proximity to a reader. They are becoming more popular for payments and ticketing applications such as mass transit and motorway tolls.

A second generation of battery-free Complex Cards can be manufactured using existing hot lamination manufacturing processes and reduces the total cost of ownership for the issuer. They are used for multi-application programs such as student identification, dormitory security, banking and stored value functions such as food, payphone and photocopying.

Biometric smart cards are moving into the market activation phase as they become International Organization for Standardization-compliant, cost-efficient and scheme-certified. They provide a secure, touchless and user-friendly experience and help address key card program challenges such as BYOD environments, device and credential ownership, users changing devices and limited battery life. In contrast, iris or fingerprint scanning is not yet practical for access control as it requires large fields of view and high false acceptance rates.

Second Generation

Manufacturer of smart cards for identification, payment and passport applications. Products include smart card chip & contactless, embedded IC cards, embedding & computing platforms and synapsis cashless systems. Services include turnkey system integration and design, installation and monitoring. Customers include hotel, hospitality & leisure industries, amusement parks & zoos, healthcare service providers and retail stores.

Second generation smart cards differ from their first-generation counterparts in two areas: security and applications. Today’s credentials use open and widely adopted security standards for encryption that were not available in the first generation, and they can be used by different card-terminal vendors without the need for an expensive card reader upgrade.

In addition, the secure storage capability of these devices makes them ideal for the electronic commerce sector. This is particularly true for services that require verification of identity and passwords, such as online banking, credit cards, e-commerce sites and social networking accounts. However, smart cards are not a complete solution for online transactions. Malware such as man-in-the-browser can break the security model, allowing malware to override inputs into an application and modify transactions.

Despite these challenges, it is expected that the market for Second Generation smart cards will grow by about 0.8% in 2022. This growth is driven by the increasing adoption of contactless features in identity and access cards, government and health cards and transport cards.

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