Dual-interface cards deliver on promise of flexibility
With both contact and contactless on board, the cards are finding favor with a host of global issuers
08 February, 2016
category: Contactless, Corporate, Digital ID, Financial, Government, Smart Cards
Widespread government adoption
The use of dual-interface cards is becoming more prevalent in markets that need higher-security applications and where the cards are needed for multiple uses.
One of the highest volume issuers of dual-interface cards has been the U.S. federal government. The Department of Defense’s Common Access Card is a dual-interface specification. “I think they drove the market quite a bit and helped drive the price down,” Gold says. “Other governments around the world saw that.”
As a result, more commercial enterprises, such as health care, have been looking into dual interface.
Transit is another growing market for dual-interface. The transit market has been evolving more from proprietary, closed-loop fare collection systems – such as the London Oyster card that can only be used at London transit terminals – to an open-loop system that would incorporate Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American express branded dual-interface cards.
Dual-interface cards are becoming more prevalent in markets that need higher-security applications and where the cards are needed for multiple uses
When the goal is to combine a traditional payment card that relies on a contact interface for merchant payments with a transit card that requires contactless, dual interface is an ideal solution.
Inroads in payments
The payments industry is poised to become the next market for widespread deployment of dual-interface cards, says Philip Andreae, vice president of field marketing in Oberthur’s financial services business unit. In the U.S., the payments industry is currently migrating from contactless to contact chip cards and will soon start to consider dual-interface, he says.
Outside of the U.S. there is already a significant number of EMV payment cards using dual-interface, enabling the card to support either mode depending on the requirements of the specific merchant location.
The U.S. migration to EMV chip cards is relying largely on contact cards. Only about 3.5% of the chip cards going out today are dual interface for payments, Andreae says. “We expect that number to grow rather rapidly in 2016.”
“On a global scale, we see something in the order of 40% of all EMV cards in market being dual interface,” he says.
Andreae points out that certain markets, such as Poland and China, are already predominately dual interface. Spain, France, the United Kingdom and Australia are migrating from contact only to dual interface. Markets still in early deployment, such as the United States, are taking a contact first path before eventually migrating to dual interface, he says.
The hope is that higher quantities driven by the federal government and the payments industry will ultimately make the cards more attainable for smaller issuers.
“The volume that EMV is pushing may over time push down prices on dual-interface chips and hence make them more viable for access control markets,” says Lovelock. “But that’s not the case yet.”
For years, smart card industry insiders have questioned the future need for the contact interface. When the data throughput, speed and security of contactless are robust enough, why would anyone choose to insert a contact card into a reader?
In other words, they posit that improvements in contactless could potentially eliminate the need for the contact interface and, subsequently, the dual-interface card.
Lovelock and others stress that this scenario is still off into the future.
He sees a need for the contact interface because it remains challenging to reliably transmit large payloads of data over a contactless interface. “If you’ve got a very chatty protocol like PKI, it’s hard to do that over a contactless interface,” he says. New protocols, however, are optimizing the PKI exchange so this will change with time.
Another reason why the contact interface will persist is because contact readers tend to be cheaper and more ubiquitous than contactless readers. However, as more laptops and devices have contactless readers built into them, by default that reason will fade over time, Lovelock says.
Additionally, in highly secure transactions concerns remain when exchanging data in the clear over a contactless interface that could be susceptible to eavesdropping. Within the payment card industry, there is still some concern over how to protect the PIN when it’s sent “over the air,” explains Identiv’s Brady.
He says that short ranges help, but it’s still not a good idea to send the PIN unprotected. “Chip processing power can protect the PIN with encryption, and we are seeing more protocols being developed to take advantage of this capability,” Brady says.
“Still we will continue to see dual-interface cards for some time,” he says.