The history of smart-cards and their place in modern Russia

The greatest company offering corporate integrates smart-cards systems in Russia is IT company. Founded in 1990 today Information Technologies Co.

The history of smart-cards and their place in modern Russia



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St.Petersburg State University

Faculty Of Economics






the term paper

The History Of Smart-Cards and Their Place In Modern Russia


author: Victor Travin




What are plastic cards? What kinds of cards exist?2

Cards with magnetic line and memory-cards2

Smart-cards: step forward4

The developing of smart technology5

Smart-cards appear in Russia7

Smart-cards as banks cards7

Smart-cards as corporate cards8

The place of smart-cards in modern Russia12

Plastic card payments in Internet14


Sources and literature16



Russian smart-cards market is one of the fastest developing sectors of countrys financial market. The trial period which was over by 1995 allowed its participants to learn technologies and problems that can be hit upon while dealing with “cards” business. The fact that more then 500.000 international plastic cards were issued in Russia for several last years only approves of the topicality of such payment systems.


What are plastic cards? What kinds of cards exist?

Cards with magnetic line and memory-cards

Cashless payment systems based on traditional cards with magnetic line are dominating world wide. They achieved noticeable improvement in supplying card owners with many kinds of services. But the fact of internal limits in magnetic line cards leads to many new problems. These problems are: the increase of financial risks and losses, administration expenses, technical problems. This kind of cards has a lot of disadvantages that make their operation in Russia in same scale as in Europe impossible. The most serious disadvantage, in my opinion, is that such systems require on-line authorization in stores and, as a consequence, they need well branched high quality communication nets (e.g. telephone lines).Because of this fact magnetic line cards systems have a serious restriction for their operation in the countries with unsatisfactory state of telecommunication systems. I also have to notice a low security level of magnetic line cards and the entire technological chain of such systems. This often leads to great flow of unprovided false transactions. This aspect is a serious obstacle to developing magnetic card systems, especially in the countries with a high level of criminality.

Memory-cards belong to chip-cards equipped with memory chip. Payment systems based on memory cards have important advantages as compared with magnetic line cards. They have a higher security level and the option of off-line authorization in stores. Technical abilities of chip built in memory cards define restrictions to their operating in payment systems though. We have just the same problem here (as with magnetic line cards) unsatisfactory security level of any single card and system in general. Taking criminal situation in Russia into consideration we have to admit that this kind of cards can hardly find the appropriate place in modern Russia. This aspect captures a special place when several banks are involved in one payment system, where special attention should be paid to accident prevention and authenticity of financial information, differentiation of responsibility for keeping a secret information with transaction members. Main areas for memory-cards are systems of limited access to accommodation and computer networks (identification cards); telephone networks (cellular telephone network GSM); payphone and metro cards, local payment systems (club cards). Certainly, memory-cards will find their place, but obviously they will not be ruling in future.

Thus, magnetic line is a medium in magnetic line cards which lowers reliability and makes multi recording impossible and requires on-line access.

The chip is a medium in memory-cards. Such cards can be used with off-line access, multi recording is available, but the procedure is still complex. Because of low security level running memory-cards is dangerous.


Smart-cards: step forward

Magnetic line cards market is now formed in all developed countries. Giant infrastructure was created: processing centers, money access machine, trade terminals, hundreds million cards in use, international standards are formed and admitted. That is why magnetic line cards will be still in use for many years.

However, world leaders VISA, Europay, MasterCard have already declared about inevitable conversion to smart-card technology in future. All of them started developing future international standards for payment systems based on smart-cards. Even in Europe where magnetic line cards are traditionally popular smart-cards are winning one project after another.

The most successful introduction of smart-cards is supposed to take place in the countries where magnetic cards hold a weak position; in the countries without high quality well branched and reliable communication systems; in the countries with a high criminal level where the population have a low credit reliability.

These days many Russian banks issue traditional magnetic cards of international payment systems. However, such issues are definitely oriented on concrete social consumer group and regions of their use are quite limited.

Now lets say some words about a smart-card. The medium in smart-cards is a small processor chip. The identification area allows only one record while personalizing the card and later available for reading only. Access to other areas available only after the card holder entered the proper “key”. The smart-cards security level is much higher than the magnetic cards one. As to prices on smart-cards, they are higher, but they become lower and lower every year as their technology is being improved and production scale is being enlarged

The smart-cards are small computers is some way. Modern smart-card chips features can be compared with personal computers in early 80s. Part of the data located on a smart-card can be used only in internal cards operations. This fact together with high level cryptographic security makes smart-cards valuable asset for financial systems demanding additional security and reliability. Because of that smart-cards are now considered to be the most promising kind of plastic cards. They can be also considered to be the most promising for their features. Smart-cards counting abilities allow card holder to keep multi-currency wallet. As predicted by VISA and Europay/MasterCard, smart-cards will replace magnetic line cards within the 10 year period.


The developing of smart technology

First smart-cards appeared in France in the middle 70s. The main advantages as compared to magnetic line cards are higher reliability, security and multifunctionality. The main disadvantage that it is still difficult to get over is high prime cost.

Nevertheless, in early 90s rapid growth of smart-cards market took place. Thus, at the last smart-technology forum (SmartCard Forum), hosted in the USA, statistical reports showed that the majority of magnetic line cards owner would use smart-cards as electronic wallet if their bank issued such cards.

But financial institutes that working with smart-cards have a lot of questions at the moment. Many of these questions still do not have answers. Here are the most popular ones:

  1. How high is the level of smart-cards security?
  2. What schemes should be used for transactions: open or secured?
  3. How available and reasonable is the complete replacement of cash with electronic money?
  4. What authorization mode is better: on-line or off-line?

The fact of existence of these questions demonstrates that there is a high interest in smart-cards connected with an ability to transform little sum payments into cashless payments. Visa researches show that annually more then 1,8 trillion dollars happen to less then 10 dollars transaction. Obviously operation of these payment through electronic cards is more than attractive. But the organization of such transformation hits upon serious problems even in well developed countries. In this case solving this problem with a help of electronic wallets seems to be the most effective. According to Jean Jacques Debone, the president of European branch of Visa International “the development of smart-cards, allowing the client to make less then 8 dollar payments, will treble banks cards profit”


Smart-cards appear in Russia

Smart-cards as banks cards

BGS Smartcard Systems AG is the official dealer and distributor of Visa International smart-technologies is Russian and the former USSR market. It was founded in 1997 and holds right for software and technologies of cashless payments based on U.E.P.S standards. U.E.P.S. universal electronic payment system is a system based on smart-card technology. The main technological feature of U.E.P.S. is that all transaction operations are done in off-line mode trough direct contact of two smart-cards. BGS introduced several large projects for Sberbank of Russia, Promstroybank, Inkombank and some other banks and bank unions in Russia, the leading banks of Uzbekistan, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. In September 1996 BGS signed the agreement with Visa International on developing and migration of smart-card product COPAC including U.E.P.S. as a basis. The matter for greater interest is joint project with Sberbank on creating the united smart-card system (SberCard

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