How Smart Are Those Smart Cards?
But why do we need smart cards? For one, they greatly improve the convenience and security of any transaction. They provide tamper-proof storage of user and account identity and also provide a system security for the exchange of data with practically any type of network. They protect against a full range of security threats, from slipshod storage of user passwords to experienced system hackers.
Smart cards have had a much longer track record in Europe than in the United States. In Europe, the health insurance and banking industries have been using smart cards for over a decade. In Germany, every citizen has a smart card for health insurance. Based on their track record and since banking and health care are the pressing issues of the day in the current political debates of the general election,the next president of the United States could actually determine the course of the utilization of smart cards in the US in the next administration.
Smart cards will also continue to evolve over time with beneficial and what some consider detrimental repercussions. The next phase of smart cards will be the widespread use of RFID (radio frequency) chips, where you will not need to swipe your card any more. A silicon chip attached to the card will transmit a radio frequency which will be able to be detected, even if it’s in your pocket.
Other technological advancements are also being considered. A recent episode of the TV show Nip/Tuck included a glimpse of the future when one of the plastic surgeons’ daughters was seen sporting a cell phone chip in her ear. Is it possible that the day will come when we will have the option to accept the implantation of smart card chips, where all of our biological and financial data will be stored, including our credit cards, driver's licenses, social security, keys to start your car, automatic switches to turn on your lights when you return home and even an internal passport for your international travel?
This is not science fiction. It is very real and something that has already been introduced. The use of chips in pets, now a legal requirement for anyone wanting to ship a cat or dog abroad seems fairly harmless. But suggestions that it can be extended to their owners is greeted with less enthusiasm. The possibility that the government could truly become Big Brother and mandatory chip implantations could be dictated is a very scary thought!
In that Brave New World, you would no longer be able to buy, sell or exchange information privately. The government would have a record of every purchase, every transaction, giving a whole new meaning to being a “chip off the old block.” So while smart cards are getting smarter all the time, I think the melding of human and machine is a topic for future debate … or perhaps the next sequel of The Terminator!