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(FELIcity CArd) An NFC-based, contactless smart card technology from Sony, first deployed as the Hong Kong subway's "Octopus" card in 1997. Pronounced "fell-ih-cuh" and popular in Asia, FeliCa is used for transportation tickets, ID cards and digital wallet transactions. It supports multiple services in the same card as well as separate access rights to individual files. Appropriate for turnstiles in the fast-moving train station environment, the system can detect, authenticate and transfer data in 100 milliseconds.

Mobile FeliCa
For both contactless and remote transactions, FeliCa can be built into mobile phones, enabling money amounts and other messages to be viewed on screen. Because the technology was designed to give people an enjoyable experience, the name was coined from the word "felicity," which means happiness. See smart card.

smart card

A credit card or ID card that contains a chip. When inserted into a reader (contact card) or held within a few inches of the reader (contactless), data are transferred to a central computer. Also called a "chip card," a smart credit or debit card is more secure than cards with a magnetic stripe, because it generates a unique one-time code for each transaction that is impossible to replicate with counterfeit cards. Smart cards can also be programmed to self-destruct if the wrong password is entered too many times. As a financial transaction card, it can be loaded with digital money.

Contactless Smart Cards Are Like Passive RFID
Like an RFID tag used to track merchandise and vehicles, a contactless smart card is also energized by receiving a radio frequency (RF) transmitted over the air. However, the smart card uses a microcontroller that can provide authentication, encryption and financial processing, whereas RFID tags generally contain only identification data. See EMV, NFC, magnetic stripe, PIV, SIM card, RFID, Java Card and FeliCa.

A Smart Contact Card
Cards can have multiple methods of data transfer. This card uses a barcode, and the gold pins make contact with a card reader. (Image courtesy of Smart Card Alliance,

The Chip Inside
The tiny chip is found on the back of the contact sheet. In this example, five of the contacts are actually connected to the chip.

Contact and Contactless
This Verifone reader accepts both chip-based credit and debit cards (arrow) as well as contactless payments via smartphones (see NFC). (Image courtesy of Verifone Systems Inc.,

The Smarty Reader
Years ago, Smarty allowed a smart card to be read in a floppy disk drive. Smarty emulated the magnetic field of a rotating disk. (Image courtesy of Fischer International Systems Corporation.)

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