What is a Smart Card Keyboard?

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

A smart card is a device the size of a credit card that is capable of providing identification or authentication. The contact card type of smart card needs to be inserted into a card accepting device (CAD) in order to be read. A keyboard is, in many cases, the access point for many computer functions. A smart card keyboard is a keyboard containing a CAD, and is therefore a means of enhancing security surrounding the use of a computer by controlling access to the computer with a low-cost device. Industries that make use of the smart card keyboard include banking, healthcare, and government agencies.

Man holding computer
Man holding computer

A smart card keyboard is often a wired USB 2.0 keyboard, which may be full-size or compact. It may be a standard QWERTY configuration or an ergonomic design. However it is designed and however many keys it has, a smart card keyboard is equipped with a smart card reader integrated into it. One manufacturer claims that its smart card reader is good for more than 50,000 card insertions, while another estimates the use at up to 100,000 insertions.

Smart card keyboard access can be set up with dual-factor authentication, combining something the user knows, such as a user name and/or password with the item the user is required to have — the smart card. The benefits of the smart card keyboard system include simpler security than other systems and better security than the standard computer log-in system to further limit the likelihood of unauthorized use. It is possible to configure the smart card technology such that the computer will become inoperable if it is lost or stolen. For further enhanced security, a biometric measure, such as a fingerprint scan, can be added.

Smart card keyboards are manufactured by a number of companies. Some are proprietary to match a particular computer or limited to PCs, like those by Compaq®, Dell®, Hewlett Packard®, KeyTronic®, and Lenovo®. On the other hand, manufacturers such as Goldtouch®, Cherry®, Seal Shield® others are adaptable to both Macs® and PCs.

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth is passionate about reading, writing, and research, and has a penchant for correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to contributing articles to wiseGEEK about art, literature, and music, Mary Elizabeth is a teacher, composer, and author. She has a B.A. from the University of Chicago’s writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont, and she has written books, study guides, and teacher materials on language and literature, as well as music composition content for Sibelius Software.

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