Guest Post: Smart Cards: A Key Player in the Retail Industry

Ramaprasad-Ram 200

Smart cards are ubiquitous in most industries – manufacturing, logistics, transport, and many more. However, they have significant presence and use in the retail industry. Credit cards, debit cards, ATM cards, pre-paid cards, gift cards, and member loyalty cards are a few examples of how the retail industry utilises cards for contactless payments and to provide superior in-store and after-sales services.  Industry research estimates nearly 11.1 billion smart cards will be used by 2017.

Because of high competition, the quality of service provided by retailers is almost as important as the products they sell. Loyalty cards, for example, are a popular method of reaching out to customers to build lasting relationships. Popular retailers in Singapore, for example, sometimes organise members’ only exclusive warehouse sales, selling their products at significantly lower prices. On other occasions, retailers partner up with financial institutions and credit card companies to offer special promotions based on the brand of credit cards used.

Assessing the security risks
While the penetration of smart cards in the industry has opened many doors for retailers, security remains a key concern. Last year, a survey by Trustwave titled “2013 Global Security Report” discovered the retail industry was the top target of cybercriminals in 2012. An estimated 45% of the retailers were hit. The chief reason given was due to the massive amount of payment cards that are used in the industry. Moreover, another survey by Aite Group and ACI Worldwide found in Singapore, 26 per cent of respondents have experienced fraud in the past five years. The number is even higher in countries where the technology infrastructure is not as secured as in Singapore.

To tackle the threat from cybercriminals, retailers are working with financial institutions to issue EMV cards to users. EMV cards are embedded with smart chips that prevent fraudulent use. Their multi-step authentications put in place to inform customers of unauthorised transactions – for example, financial institutions send automated SMS alerts when a financial transaction takes place that is larger than the minimum amount set by the customer.

Navigating the hurdle
To help retailers and credit card companies navigate the security hurdles, Zebra Technologies provides the necessary tools and software. For example, Zebra’s family of card printers are embedded with a host of security features designed to thwart fraudulent use. For example, all of the ribbons and laminate used for card issuance by Zebra printers are specifically tagged with RFID labels. For applications with high security demands, the printer architecture supports laminating cards with custom holograms, and enclosure locks to prevent unauthorised access to the printer supplies. This prevents the duplication of cards. Overall, Zebra provides a multi-layer security architecture that enables retailers to select the right level of security for their application and environment.

Future of smart cards
In the future, we will continue to see a growth in the smart card market. New applications like E-purse and contactless e-passports and e-ID cards will be introduced, while smart cards will have the capacity to store even more information than they do now. This will make compact all-in-one identity cards a reality. For example, imagine a single card that can contain your identity data, your shopping data, and can be used for contactless payments.

About Zebra Technologies
A global leader respected for innovation and reliability, Zebra offers technologies that illuminate organizations' operational events involving their assets, people and transactions, allowing them to see opportunities to create new value. We call it the Visible Value Chain. Zebra's extensive portfolio of marking and printing technologies, including barcode, RFID, GPS and sensoring, turns the physical into the digital to give operational events a virtual voice. This enables organizations to know in real-time the location, condition, timing and accuracy of the events occurring throughout their value chain. Once the events are seen, organizations can create new value from what is already there. For more information about Zebra's solutions specific to the retail sector, visit

This post is courtesy of Ram Ramaprasad, Director of Product Management, Zebra Technologies.

Zebra Technologies Asia Pacific is a sponsor at Cards & Payments Asia 2013 taking place from 24 – 25 April 2013 at The Marina Bay Sands Expo & Convention Centre. Visit them at Booth 4L01. To sign up for your visit to the expo, click here.

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