Smart Card Readers - An Essential Part of Every Smart Card System

Smart card readers are sophisticated devices with built-in intelligence. Smart card readers are found in PCs, Notebooks, Servers, PDAs and Set-Top-Boxes. Some readers come with integrated secure PIN pads, displays, or fingerprint sensors. This allows multi-factor authentication for secure logical access control. Combining smart cards with biometrics can make smart cards even more convenient and secure because instead of entering a PIN, a biometric credential is used to access the smart card system.

Here are some state-of-the-art smart card readers we are using in our projects:

Smart Card Readers
Examples of HID OMNIKEY Smart Card Readers


Smart card readers are becoming increasingly prevalent.

Smart card readers are also known as card readers, smart card programmers, card terminals, card acceptance devices (CAD), or interface devices (IFD).


Desktop Smart Card Reader


The most common smart card readers read ISO 7816 compliant cards. These are credit card-sized smart cards with contacts.

Smart card readers are used to read data from and write data to smartcards. Cardreaders can easily be integrated into a PC running Windows 98/Me, 2000, XP, and Vista.


OMNIKEY CardMan 3121 USB smart card reader
Desktop Smart Card Reader


Some computer systems come already equipped with a built-in smart card reader.

As contactless smart cards are being deployed in more places, smart card readers that support ISO 14443 and ISO 15693 contactless cards are becoming more prevalent.


smart card reader for ISO14443 and ISO 15693 
Contactless Smart Card Reader 
for Mifare, iCLASS, and CPU cards


Smart card readers will soon be an integral part of any standard PC. However, currently you still need to connect a reader to the USB port, the PCMCIA (PC-Card), ExpressCard or the serial RS232 port of a computer system.


Computer systems with keyboards that include an integrated smart card reader/writer are now available.



PC card Smart Card Reader for PCMCIA

Smart Card Reader for PCMCIA port 
used for mobile applications


Smart card readers are used as smart card programmers to configure and personalize integrated circuit cards.

This means that not only CPU-based smart cards, but also simple memory cards, can be programmed using a smart card reader.

(Of course, the cardreader must support the appropriate protocol such as the asynchronous T=0, T=1 or synchronous I2C protocols.)

OMNIKEY CardMan 4321 ExpressCard 54 smart card reader
Smart Card Reader for ExpressCard 54 port



Smart card readers can also be found in the form of a USB dongle - a great way to develop a hardware token and deploy reader and card in one device.


USB dongles are also frequently used with GSM phones containing a SIM smart card. Phone numbers can be edited on a PC using a USB smart card dongle.

Smart Card USB dongle for SIM cards

Smart Card USB dongle - 
a Smartcard reader/writer for SIM cards



Smart card readers can also write to smart cards. So, when someone talks about a smart card reader they really mean a smart card reader/writer.

class 4 Smart Card Reader terminal for secure PIN entry 
PC-link Smart Card Reader
for secure PIN entry



Certain cardreaders already come with advanced security features such as secure PIN entry, secure display or even integrated fingerprint scanners for the next-generation of multi-layer security and three-factor authentication.
(discontinued reader)



USB smart card reader with integrated fingerprint scanner
Smart Card Reader with integrated fingerprint scanner
for authentication including biometrics

Smart card readers are also available as chipsets for reader integration on board level into embedded systems such as intelligent printers, USB dongles, smart card encoders for card printers.

For more information about smart card readers, contact us at

Smart Card API (SDK)

Easy smart card integration with our smart card framework for .NET with C# and VB.NET sample code.

Sample code available for Mifare, DESFire, JavaCard, KVK, eGK, SIM, PIV, CAC, HID Prox/iCLASS and many more