The whole range of smart card technology
RFID im Blick – Product Guide 2017
À LA CARTE
Plasticard-ZFT offers the whole range of smart card technology available today – and creates the innovations of tomorrow
Jürgen Werner, Managing Director, Plasticard-ZFT, in an interview with “RFID im Blick Global“ Plasticard-ZFT celebrated their 25th birthday during the summer of 2016 with new innovative projects such as display cards, NFC temperature loggers, card-in-card systems, and a fully automated online shop. At the same time, the company expanded its headquarters in Dresden, signalling a commitment to growth and production in Germany.
Multipass shows data on an integrated display
One of the most visionary projects developed by Plasticard-ZFT is the Multipass, developed in conjunction with a number of universities and another industrial company. A prototype was presented at the 25-year jubilee of the company in 2016, Jürgen Werner says: “The Multipass contains a display that works without a battery. It is based on E Ink technology, which is also employed in e-books. Even without a power source, the display does not turn off. During reading or writing, electricity is transferred via energy harvesting, as in passive RFID, and used to change the display. This way, information such as validity, remaining amount, or others can be displayed.”
The project will first be deployed for student passes, the validity of which is renewed every semester. In addition, the Multipass unlocks further applications for students. “This is not an experiment, but a specific combination of mature technologies in a single card for a precise goal, supported by high performance technology. For us, this kind of innovation, which employs tomorrow‘s use cases today, is leading the way,“ says Werner.
Card-in-card offers flexible application possibilities
Smart Cards are constantly becoming more complex in order to include more uses, save larger amounts of information, and increase security against theft or fraud. This is why Plasticard-ZFT supports security solutions such as LEGIC card-in-card, which was used for a client project for the first time in 2016. “The crypto processor we used, SmartMX, emulates Mifare DESFire EV1, but at the same time is capableof running LEGIC Advant as a secure applet. We were granted production authorization by LEGIC in 2016. The joint certification process with LEGIC posed challenges to developers and to the IT department at the same time. The expansion of our headquarters created part of the conditions for certification, because we were able to build a high-security IT environment,” Werner explains the challenges.
Dual interface cards are gaining ground in different areas
For Plasticard-ZFT, certification is an investment into the future, as the Managing Director states: “As of today, few projects require this technology. But the need to employ dual technology solutions is steadily rising.” Even today, many clients are using multi chip cards in order to combine IT access with physical access. This way, they can offer added value to the customer through contactless solutions, even though customers are currently still using the contact functions. “In banking cards, for example, reading via chip or magnetic stripe has been supplemented by contactless solutions. This development will be transferred to other areas as well,” Jürgen Werner states.
High mechanical stress on access control cards
“An employee card for access control is used up to 50 times per day. The mechanical stress is significantly higher than in banking, where cards are used only once or twice a day on average,” Jürgen Werner explains the different challenges for different applications. The creation of a galvanic link between contact chip and antenna presents a mechanical weak link for dual interface cards. Therefore, Plasticard-ZFT uses the inductive coupling process known from banking cards, which establishes a contactless link between antenna and chip.”
These high-quality manufacturing processes are no more labour-intensive, but have a higher tolerance for error, Werner underlines: “The coupling coils have to be positioned very closely. We had to optimise our internal production processes further in order to unlock the full quality of the manufacturing process. We regarded this investment as a chance to keep high tech production in Germany.”
MONITOR°CARD IMPROVES FOOD SAFETY
In addition, the company is entering into new market sectors with offerings such as the monitor°Card. “The monitor°Card is an NFC data logger with a temperature sensor. It continuously registers the ambient temperature and saves a record to the chip that can be read with a smartphone,” Werner explains. “The monitor°Card can be used for food transport, for example: if it is put into the same package as the shipment, the transport provider can prove the continuity of the cold chain. Right now, the monitor°Card is also being field tested by a large food retailer.”
PLASTICARD-ZFT EXPANDS ITS FOCUS TO INCLUDE BEACONS
Bluetooth Low Energy is another key future topic for Plasticard-ZFT. “Similar to RFID, the advantage lies in its versatility. Beacons are consumer-oriented and are well suited for advertisement, sports, events, loyalty and bonus programs, and more. They unlock additional applications, and, above all else, enable direct contact with the customer via their smartphone,“ Werner explains. “For an RFID manufacturer like Plasticard-ZFT, looking at Beacons is the next logical step. For this reason, we have supplemented our series of RFID key-fobs with BLE key-fobs. Integrating the standardised Beacon hardware into a robust casing is fundamental for the adoption of the technology. The device has to match the expected battery life of several years. Plasticard-ZFT orients itself towards its clients‘ BLE requirements, which include high protective classes, CE certification, optimised performance, and high quality casings. This way, the technology can be used for demanding applications such as access control or security.”
ONLINE SHOP FOR INDIVIDUAL CARD PRODUCTION
Ordering and personalizing cards online is a key future endeavour. In Plasticard-ZFT‘s online shop, resellers can use the specially developed software to automatically check card print data and create a proof for their customers. “This enables the customer to place orders around the clock. Our online shop is fully automated from ordering to packaging the product,” Jürgen Werner underlines. “Automation enables the production of small series of 100 or even 50 pieces in Germany, and even allows the export of cards to countries with significantly higher labour costs. The segment is continuously growing by about ten percent per year. In 2016, 2.5 million cards were produced in small series alone.” For more complex orders or larger series, clients can be advised and accompanied through card development by experienced experts. This way, a highly qualified human element rounds out the fully automated online shop.
“This sales channel is not yet fully accepted, but it will assert itself – as it has in consumer technology. Clients today possess a strong awareness of what they want. Through our own consequent development of technology, IT, and functionality, we have oriented ourselves towards future customer needs. Plasticard-ZFT also changes with the digitization it enables for its customers.”
“Clients today possess a strong awareness of what they want. Through our own consequent development of technology, IT, and functionality, we have oriented ourselves towards future customer needs. Plasticard-ZFT also changes with the digitization it enables for its customers.”
Jürgen Werner, Managing Director, Plasticard-ZFT