North American Smart Card Readers and Chipsets – Trend Analysis

Published: 18 Jul 2009

By Peter Finalle, Research Analyst, Smart Card


Although at the forefront for many new technologies (particularly information security), the North American market has lagged behind many regions in smart card adoption, significantly influencing the number of readers deployed in this region. A variety of reasons for slow adoption in this region exist, often having to do with the dominance of existing magnetic-stripe technology and the high cost associated with smart card technology in general.

However, significant progress has been made with Government and Corporate implementations in North America, resulting in successful large-scale projects, including Boeing’s smart card project, or the Government’s Common Access Card program -- both of which have resulted in the roll-out of many readers to support these projects. However, despite these successful smart card roll-outs, there has been limited success for this technology in small- to medium-sized businesses, healthcare, and the payment industry in North America (all of which are largely successful markets in EMEA). Due to current economic conditions, the North American smart card readers market will lag behind regions such as EMEA in card adoption, until conditions improve and standards are further developed across all markets.

General Trends

The North American smart card reader market has made significant progress, with continued adoption and the latest trends serving as driving forces. Subsequently, contactless card technology and PC-linked readers have been on the rise in this region, spurring many successful deployments, particularly in the corporate market. PC-Linked card readers have been successful, largely due to the existing PC network and infrastructure already present within corporations, making compatibility with Microsoft, Apple, and Linux operating systems a key driving feature. This, combined with input/output standards (such as USB, serial, PCMCIA, ExpressCard54, and 3¼ inch drive bays), have helped organizations to maximize the effectiveness of their existing technology assets, without having to make integral system changes. Contactless technology has also furthered this adoption, by adding significant physical speed and convenience to smart card deployments, helping to leverage greater performance for issuing organizations. Furthermore, solutions in this market typically adhere to popular standards, such as the Microsoft Mini Driver standard, in order to ensure operational integrity and compatibility.

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