We have mentioned in past articles that there are currently changes to the ISO 14443 contactless standard being considered. The group within the International Organization for Standards that oversees contactless standards is called SC17 Workgroup 8. A series of amendments are being considered that would enable cards and readers to communicate at a higher bit rate, thus transferring higher volumes of data more rapidly.
Currently the ISO 14443 standards sets the maximum allowable data transfer rate at 106 kilobits per second (kb/s). The first series of proposed amendments would up this rate to 847 kb/s. A second set of amendments would extend the rate to 1.695 megabits per second (mb/s).
According to Francis Christian, Chairman of INCITS B10.5, the US body for contactless card standards, the movement to 847 kb/s is “very positive and moving rapidly (toward acceptance).” He suggests, however, that the 1.695 mb/s amendments are still in the early stages of development and have significant technical requirements to be resolved.
Says Mr. Christian, “the standard is the standard. We are now making additions to it to add enhancements to the series.” He stresses that the ISO 14443 is a mature and well-established standard. The enhancements are to “improve the usefulness of the standard and the consistency of results.”
The mention of consistent results relates to another series of proposed amendments, these to the ISO 10373 standard that covers the testing of card technologies. Through the published ISO 10373 Part 6, testing procedures for contactless cards, readers, and interfaces are defined. Says Mr. Christian, the new series of amendments to this area are designed to “correct weaknesses in the original document and make the test methods give more consistent results.” For most rollouts of ISO 14443 cards today, the increase in data transfer rate will not provide a noticeable change in the user experience. For a basic identification function or a payment or fare collection environment, 106 kb/s is more than sufficient. As new, more demanding applications are delivered via contactless cards, the higher data rates become important.
For example, a photograph stored on a contactless card that is accessed by an access control reader for facial comparison can take several seconds at current data rates. But at 847 kb/ s, the image can be transferred as quickly as the screen can refresh with the new image. Other biometric applications, cryptographic key and certificate storage, as well as other yetto- be-determined uses will require these higher data rates to function acceptably.
All indications suggest that the efforts of Workgroup 8 will result in the first steps being taken to meet these new opportunities early next year. That is the anticipated timeframe for the passage of the initial enhancements to the existing family of contactless standards.
Special thanks to Francis Christian, FC Consulting, for his assistance.