Smart Card Alliance Publishes Paper Contrasting RFID Tags and Contactless Smart Cards for ePassport, Payment Applications

Smart Card Alliance Publishes Paper Contrasting RFID Tags and Contactless Smart Cards for ePassport, Payment Applications

Princeton Junction, NJ, February 15, 2005–Radio frequency is no longer just about large battery-powered radio-based gadgets like garage door openers and highway payment systems. Now ePassports and credit cards are going to come with RF capabilities. But is that a good idea? Is it safe?

The answer to both questions is “yes,” and to help people understand why the Smart Card Alliance published “RFID Tags and Contactless Smart Card Technology: Comparing and Contrasting Applications and Technologies.”

There are two distinct technologies in the market-radio frequency identification (RFID) and contactless smart card technology. As costs come down and size shrinks, the underlying radio frequency (RF) chip technology is finding its way into cards and tokens that are used for everything from tracking animals and tagging goods for inventory control to enabling fast payment and securely identifying people. But the differences between these two technologies, particularly their security and privacy capabilities, are poorly understood.

“With contactless smart card technology already well established in access cards and transit fare payment cards and now being introduced in next generation electronic passports and general payment cards, we thought it was important to help people understand the different technologies being used,” said Randy Vanderhoof, executive director of the Smart Card Alliance. “There is a big difference in the security and privacy requirements for a chip the vet uses to identify your new golden retriever if she gets lost and the one in a security badge or a contactless payment card. As contactless smart card technology finds its way into ePassports and new forms of payment this year, it’s important for everyone to understand how much more effective contactless smart card technology is at privacy and security than traditional RFID technology.”

The Smart Card Alliance’s short briefing document and matching FAQ explain RFID and contactless smart card technology in easy-to-understand terms for a lay audience. They also present common uses of the two technologies, and address specific security and privacy questions that have been raised about the use of contactless smart card technology in ePassports, correcting some commonly held misunderstandings regarding contactless smart card technology.

The use of contactless smart cards in electronic passports, government ID cards, frequent traveler cards and payment applications will be discussed in detail at the upcoming “Smart Cards in eGovernment Conference” organized by the Smart Card Alliance and held on March 9-11, 2005 at the Renaissance Hotel in Washington, D.C. Information about the conference and a complete program agenda can be found on the Alliance Web site at

The “RFID Tags and Contactless Smart Cards” briefing document and FAQ can also be found on the Alliance Web site.

About the Smart Card Alliance

The Smart Card Alliance is a not-for-profit, multi-industry association working to accelerate the acceptance of smart card technology. Through specific projects such as education programs, market research, advocacy, industry relations and open forums, the Alliance keeps its members connected to industry leaders and innovative thought. The Alliance is the single industry voice for smart cards, leading industry discussion on the impact and value of smart cards in the U.S. For more information please visit