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The following information on terms and definitions used in our industry is from a variety of industry sources (including the Smart Card Alliance, NIST, NXP, Philips, Siemens, Atmel, ACS) and Wikipedia as well as our own documentation.   Usage of these materials is claimed under FAIR USE for EDUCATIONAL purposes  under US and International Copyright laws.  Where listed TRADEMARKS are the property of their respective owners and no statement of claim to these marks is made by ASG Global, Inc.


Access Control - The process of denying or granting entrance to physical facilities or access to information processing sytems.  Plastic cards magnetic stripe, smart card or proximity control technologies can be used to gain access to premises and/or information systems.

Active tag: An RFID tag that has a transmitter to send back information, rather than reflecting back a signal from the reader, as a passive tag does. Most active tags use a battery to transmit a signal to a reader. However, some tags can gather energy from other sources. Active tags can be read from 300 feet (100 meters) or more, but they're expensive (typically more than US$20 each). They're used for tracking expensive items over long ranges. For instance, the U.S. military uses active tags to track containers of supplies arriving in ports.

Active transponder:  see Active tag.

Addressability: The ability to write data to different fields, or blocks of memory, in the microchip in an RFID tag.

Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), also known as Rijndael, is a block cipher adopted as an encryption standard by the US government. It is expected to be used worldwide and analyzed extensively, as was the case with its predecessor, the Data Encryption Standard (DES). AES was adopted by National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as US FIPS PUB 197 in November 2001 after a 5-year standardization process. 

The cipher was developed by two Belgian cryptographers, Joan Daemen and Vincent Rijmen, and submitted to the AES selection process under the name "Rijndael", a portmanteau comprising the names of the inventors. Rijndael is pronounced a bit like "Rhine dahl", with a long "i" and a silent "e".  (Wikipedia.org)

How secure is 128bit AES Encryption?  Assuming that you could build a supercomputer that could "crack" a single DES (Data Encryption Standard) key in a second (i.e., by using a brute force method to try 255 keys per second), then it would take that supercomputer approximately 149 thousand-billion (149 trillion) years to crack a 128-bit AES key. To put that into perspective, the universe is believed to be less than 20 billion years old.  Grab a cup of coffee, pack a lunch - this will take a while.  "According to the NIST - AES has the potential to remain secure well beyond the next twenty years."

Agile reader: A generic term that usual refers to an RFID reader that can read tags operating at different frequencies or using different methods of communication between the tags and readers.

Air interface: The conductor free medium, usually air, between a transponder and a reader/interrogator through which data communication is achieved by means of a modulated inductive or propagated electromagnetic field.

AIM:  The industry association for Automatic Identification and Mobility.

Algorithm - A limited set of well-defined instructions to solve a task, which leads reliably from a given starting point to a corresponding identifiable end point. It can also be described as a systematic procedure for carrying out a calculation or solving a problem in a limited number of stages. Many algorithms can be implemented as computer programs. In biometric systems, specific algorithms are used, for example, to indicate how a smart card determines whether the input fingerprint matches the template stored on the card or in the database.

Alignment: A term to express the orientation of a transponder relative to the reader/interrogator antenna. Alignment can influence the degree of coupling between transponder and reader, separation being a further influence.

Alphanumeric: Strictly data comprising both alphabetical and numeric characters. For example, A1234C9 as an alphanumeric string. The term is often used to include other printable characters such as punctuation marks.

Amplitude: The maximum absolute value of a periodic curve measured along its vertical axis (the height of a wave, in layman's terms).

Amplitude modulation: Changing the amplitude of a radio wave. A higher wave is interpreted as a 1 and a normal wave is interpreted as a zero. By changing the wave, the RFID tag can communicate a string of binary digits to the reader. Computers can interpret these digits as digital information. The method of changing the amplitude is known as amplitude shift keying, or ASK.

ANSI 378 Refers to interoperability standard for fingerprint templates developed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). The US governmental requires the use of ANSI 378 templates for Homeland Security Directive (HSPD-12) and Personal Identity Verification (PIV). The US Federal requirements for ANSI 378 are designed to ensure that all employees and contractors are able to use their badges for identification and access to all government facilities.

Antenna: The tag antenna is the conductive element that enables the tag to send and receive data. Passive, low- (135 kHz) and high-frequency (13.56 MHz) tags usually have a coiled antenna that couples with the coiled antenna of the reader to form a magnetic field. UHF tag antennas can be a variety of shapes. Readers also have antennas which are used to emit radio waves. The RF energy from the reader antenna is "harvested" by the antenna and used to power up the microchip, which then changes the electrical load on the antenna to reflect back its own signals.

Anti-collision: A general term used to cover methods of preventing radio waves from one device from interfering with radio waves from another. Anti-collision algorithms are also used to read more than one tag in the same reader's field.

API - An Application Programming Interface (API) is a set of procedure calls that an operating system, library or service provides to support requests made by computer programs.

Asymmetric key - A form of cryptography in which the key used to encrypt a message differs from the key used to decrypt it. It actually means Public-key cryptography.

Automated Fingerprint Identification System (or AFIS) is a system to automatically match one or many unknown fingerprints against a database of known prints. This is done for miscellaneous reasons, not the least of which is because the person has committed a crime. With greater frequency in recent years, AFIS like systems have been used in civil identification projects. The intended purpose is to prevent multiple enrollment in an election, welfare, DMV or similar system. The FBI manages a fingerprint identification system and database called IAFIS, which currently holds the fingerprints and criminal records of over fifty-one million criminal record subjects, and over 1.5 million civil (non-criminal) fingerprint records. US Visit currently holds a repository of over 50 million persons, primarily in the form of two-finger records (by 2008, US Visit is transforming to a system recording FBI-standard tenprint records).  (Wikipedia.org)

Authentication Any systematic method of confirming the identity of an individual. Some methods are more secure than others. Simple authentication methods include user name and password, while more secure methods include token-based one-time passwords. The most secure authentication methods include layered or "multi-factor biometric procedures. This is independent of authorization.

  • Single-factor authentication The classic fingerprint-without-card technology is simple and in many cases what serves our customers’ basic needs best. The fingerprint reader solution replaces codes or passwords.
  • Multi-Factor Authentication: More than one method
  • 3-factor authentication A product with 3-factor authentication, combines smart card, fingerprint and PIN code.

Authorization The administration of person-specific rights, privileges, or access to data or corporate resources.

Automatic Identification: A broad term that covers methods of collecting data and entering it directly into computer systems without human involvement. Technologies normally considered part of auto-ID include bar codes, biometrics, RFID and voice recognition.

Awake: The condition of a transponder when it is able to respond to interrogation.


Backscatter: A method of communication between passive tags (ones that do not use batteries to broadcast a signal) and readers. RFID tags using backscatter technology reflect back to the reader radio waves from a reader, usually at the same carrier frequency. The reflected signal is modulated to transmit data.

Bandwidth: The range or band of frequencies, defined within the electromagnetic spectrum, that a system is capable of receiving or delivering.

Bar code: A standard method of identifying the manufacturer and product category of a particular item. The bar code was adopted in the 1970s because the bars were easier for machines to read than optical characters. Bar codes’ main drawbacks are they don’t identify unique items and scanners have to have line of sight to read them.

  • One-dimensional - (1-D, linear) A barcode consisting of a single row of bars. 1-D barcodes store a smaller amount of data than two-dimensional barcodes and are therefore more suited for applications in which only a few characters are stored. 1-D barcodes store their data in the horizontal width and the information stored is highly redundant. They are therefore more resistant to data degradation. An example of a 1-D barcode is Code 39.
  • Two-dimensional - (2-D) 2-D barcodes store more information than 1-D barcodes and take advantage of both their horizontal and vertical dimensions to do so. An example of a 2-D barcode is PDF417.

Barcode Mask - Is an area on specially-made cardstock where a barcode can be printed that will prohibit unauthorized copying of the barcode.

Base station:  An RFID reader that is connected to a host system. 

Batch reading: The process or capability of a radio frequency identification reader/interrogator to read a number of transponders present within the system’s interrogation zone at the same time. Alternative term for Multiple Reading.

Battery-assisted tag: These are RFID tags with batteries, but they communicate using the same backscatter technique as passive tags (tags with no battery). They use the battery to run the circuitry on the microchip and sometimes an onboard sensor. They have a longer read range than a regular passive tag because all of the energy gathered from the reader can be reflected back to the reader. They are sometimes called "semi-passive RFID tags."

Baud Rate - A baud rate is the measurement of the data transmission between computers and other devices.

Beacon:  An active or semi-active RFID tag that is programmed to wake up and broadcast its signal at a set intervals.

Binary Number System: The binary numeral system, or base-2 number system, is a numeral system that represents numeric values using two symbols, usually 0 and 1. More specifically, the usual base-2 system is a positional notation with a radix of 2. Owing to its straightforward implementation in digital electronic circuitry using logic gates, the binary system is used internally by all modern computers. 

Biometrics The automatic recognition of persons based on unique combinations of measurable physical or behavioral characteristics. Examples include fingerprints, iris scanning, face and voice recognition, or hand geometry. All of these biometric techniques are differentiated by speed, durability, reliability, and cost effectiveness. Fingerprints are generally considered the most practical biometric identifier in use today.

Biometric Authentication Mode The way biometric data (e.g. fingerprints) is used for authentication. The mode chosen for a biometric installation depends on the specific needs of a site, where either convenience or security may be emphasized. BioCert fingerprint devices may use either of two biometric authentication modes, identification or verification.

Biometric template Biometric templates are representations of a fingerprint or other biometric using series of numbers and letters. Templates are created using sophisticated algorithms, a mathematical process.

Bits and Bytes: A bit is a binary digit, taking a value of either 0 or 1. For example, the number 10010111 is 8 bits long, or in most cases, one modern PC byte. Binary digits are a basic unit of information storage and communication in digital computing and digital information theory. 

Bistatic: A bistatic RFID interrogator, or reader, uses one antenna to transmit RF energy to the RFID tag and a different antenna to receive energy reflected back from the tag.

Block check character (BCC): A parity error checking character added to data for the purposes of detecting transmission errors.

Bluetooth: A short range radio technology aimed at simplifying communications among Internet devices and between devices and the Internet. It also aims to simplify data synchronization between Internet devices and other computers.  


Capacitor:  An electric circuit element used to store a charge temporarily. A capacitor usually consists of two metallic plates separated and insulated from each other by a dielectric substance.

Capacity – Channel:  A measure of the transmission capability of a communication channel expressed in bits.s-1 and related to channel bandwidth and signal to noise ratio by the Shannon equation;  Capacity, C = B log2 (1 + S/N), where B is the bandwidth and S/N the signal to noise ratio.

Capacity – Data:  A measure of the data, expressed in bits or bytes, that can be stored in a transponder.  The measure may relate simply to the bits that are accessible to the user or to the total assembly of bits, including data identifier and error control bits.

Capture Field/Area/Zone (also Interrogation Zone/ Area/Volume):  The region of the electromagnetic field, determined by the reader/interrogator antenna, in which the transponders are signaled to deliver a response.

Card operating system:  The software program stored in the smart card IC, which manages the basic functions of the card, such as communication with the terminal, security management and data management in the smart card file system.

Carrier:  Abbreviated term for Carrier Frequency.

Carrier Frequency:  The frequency used to carry data by appropriate modulation of the carrier waveform, typically in a radio frequency identification system, by amplitude shift keying (ASK), frequency shift keying (FSK), phase shift keying (PSK) or associated variants.

CCID - CCID stands for Chip/Smart Card Interface Devices. Chip Card Interface Device (CCID) specification is an approach to smart card reader communication and it defines a standard communication protocol for smart card readers that connect to a computer via USB, allowing the same host-side driver to communicate with any CCID-compliant smart card reader.

CE - CE is a European standard according to which marking is mandatory for certain product groups to indicate conformity with the essential health and safety requirements set out in European Directives.

CEPT (Conférence Européenne des Administrations des Postes et Télécommunications): The body responsible for European efficient utilisation of Spectrum and related regulatory matters.

Certificate authority - A certificate authority (CA) is an authority in a network that issues and manages security credentials and public key for message encryption.

Certificate revocation list - In PKI, Certificate Revocation List (CRL) is a list of serial numbers for certificates which are no longer valid.

Challenge and Response - Challenge and Response authentication includes a group of protocols in which one party asks question (“Challenge”) and the other party has to provide valid answer ("Response") for authentication.

Channel:  A medium or medium associated allocation, such as carrier frequency, for electronic communication.

Channel encoding: The application of coding schemes to facilitate effective channel transmission of the source encoded data.  Compare Source encoding. See also Channel decoding.

Channel decoding:  The process of operating upon a received transmission to separate the source-encoded data from the channel encoded form.   Compare Source decoding. See also Channel encoding.

Character set:  A set of characters assembled to satisfy a general or application requirement.

Checksum:  A code added to the contents of a block of data stored on an RFID microchip that can be checked before and after data is transmitted from the tag to the reader to determine whether the data has been corrupted or lost. The cyclic redundancy check is one form of checksum.

Chip: In data communication terms, the smallest duration of a pseudo-random code sequence used in spread spectrum communication systems.

Chipless RFID tag:  An RFID tag that doesn't depend on a silicon microchip. Some chipless tags use plastic or conductive polymers instead of silicon-based microchips. Other chipless tags use materials that reflect back a portion of the radio waves beamed at them. A computer takes a snapshot of the waves beamed back and uses it like a fingerprint to identify the object with the tag. Companies are experimenting with embedding RF reflecting fibers in paper to prevent unauthorized photocopying of certain documents. Chipless tags that use embedded fibers have one drawback for supply chain uses—only one tag can be read at a time.

Chipping: The process of moving from one chip to another in a spread spectrum transmission process, each chip being representative of a different spectral component or tone in the spread spectrum band. See also Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum.

Cleaning Card: Its purpose is to assist in keeping a card printer clean and to maintain the key parts of the printer including the printhead, transport rollers and magnetic encoding station. Some card printer manufacturers (e.g., Magicard) recommend cleaning the printer with a cleaning card each time the ribbon is replaced.

Cleaning Roller: Consists of an adhesive surface that picks up debris from blank cards. Some card printer manufacturers (e.g., Magicard) recommend replacing the cleaning roller after every 1000 prints or sooner.

Cleaning Tape: A roll of adhesive-lined material and its purpose is to pick up debris from blank cards prior to printing.

Clocking information:  Timing signals or pulses used to synchronize the transfer of data from a source to a host destination.

Closed Systems (closed loop systems):  Within the context of radio frequency identification, they are systems in which data handling, including capture, storage, and communication are under the control of the organization to which the system belongs. Compare with Open Systems.

Code Plate:  An alternative colloquial term for transponder or tag.

Coercivity: The scientific technical term used to designate how strong a magnetic field must be to affect data encoded on the stripe, and therefore, how immune the data is to damage.  Measured in Oersteds (Oe), the coercivity of a common credit card is about 300 Oe, considered low coercivity (LoCo). Consequently magnetic money clips, refrigerator magnets, etc., play havoc with the data on your credit card’s stripe. High coercivity (HiCo) magnetic stripe technology relies on particles -- generally barium ferrite (low coercivity uses iron oxide) -- with coercivity values ranging from 2750 to (ultra high) 4000 Oe.

Collision:  A term to denote an event in which two or more data communication sources compete for attention at the same time and cause a clash of data, inseparable without some means of anti-collision or contention management.

Collision avoidance: A means of avoiding collisions or clashes of data from different sources competing for attention at the same time. See also Anti-clash (Anti-contention)

Combination Card: (Combi card) Combines both contact and contactless chip technologies, using two different chips. Refer to our Technology Cards section to learn more. 

Comma Separated Values: (CSV) A file format in which individual data values are separated from each other by commas. An ID card software that offers CSV database connection allows you to access records from your stored CSV text files. 

Commissioning a tag: This term is sometime used to refer to the process of writing a serial number to a tag (or programming a tag) and associating that number with the product it is put on in a database.

Compatibility: The condition that exists between devices or systems that exhibit equivalent functionality, interface features and performance to allow one to be exchanged for another, without alteration, and achieve the same operational service. An alternative term for Interchangeability.

Composite Card: (Comp or poly-composite card) A polyester core sandwiched between PVC material. Stronger and more durable than regular PVC cards, comp cards are recommended for utilization in high-usage environments or if lamination is part of one's particular ID card printing process. (Composition is generally 40% polyester/PET and 60% PVC material.) 

Concatenation:  The facility to link together specific items of data, held in data carriers, to form a single file or field of data.

Concentrator:  A means of connecting a number of data communication devices and concentrating packets of data at a local point before onward transmission on a single link to a central data processor or information management system. In contrast to multiplexors concentrators usually have a buffering capability to ‘queue’ inputs that would otherwise exceed transmission capacity.

Conductor:  A material, such as aluminum and copper, which readily conducts electricity. Conductors have a significant impact on the performance of RFID tags. Conductors near tags can reflect RF energy in a way that reduces tag performance, and they can also detune the tag.

Contact Connector - Smart card connector having a special spring switch to detect full insertion of a smart card with small deformation

Contact Smart Card: Contains a single embedded circuit chip that contains memory, or memory plus a microprocessor. Contact smart cards must be inserted into a card acceptor device where pins attached to the reader make "contact" with pads on the surface of the card to read and store information in the chip.

Contactless card Smart cards or memory cards which communicate by a radio signal (RFID). The range is normally up to 10 cm from the reader.

Contention (Clash):  Term denoting simultaneous transponder responses capable of causing potential confusion, and misreading, within a reader/interrogator system unequipped with anti-contention facilities.

Continuous reporting:  A mode of reader/interrogator operation wherein the identification of a transponder is reported or communicated continuously while the transponder remains within the interrogation field. See also In-field Reporting.

Continuous Wave Modulation (CW):  A data modulation scheme in which the data is represented by the carrier signal being switched on and off. The scheme is identical to amplitude shift keying (ASK) with 100% depth of modulation – known as on-off keying (OOK).

Corruption-data:  In data terms, the manifestations of errors within a transmitted data stream due to noise, interference or distortion.

CR79 Card: Slightly smaller dimensionally than CR80 cards; made to fit in the well of a proximity card. Dimensions are 3.303" x 2.051" (83.9 mm x 51 mm).

CR80 Card:
Standard card size; dimensions are 3.375" x 2.125" (85.6 mm x 54 mm).

CR90 Card:
Driver's license size; slightly larger than the standard CR80, CR90 cards are 3.63" x 2.37" (92 mm x 60 mm).

CR100 Card:
Often referred to as oversize or military-sized, CR100 cards measure 3.88" x 2.63" (98.5 mm x 67 mm).

Cut and Paste: Refers to the manual and outdated process of creating ID cards. This process involves taking a photo, manually cropping it and sticking it onto a card and then laminating it with a thermal laminator. 

Cyclic Redundancy Check (CRC):  An error detection algorithm which exploits the attributes of modulo-2 arithmetic to generate, through the use of a generator polynomial, a transmission polynomial, comprising the message polynomial and a parity polynomial.

Cryptography - Cryptography is the study of ways to convert information from its normal, comprehensible form into an obscured guise, unreadable without special knowledge.

CSP - Cryptographic Service Provider (CSP) is a software library that implements the Cryptographic Application Programming Interface (CAPI). CSPs implement encoding and decoding functions, which computer's application programs may use.


Data:  Representations, in the form of numbers and characters for example, to which meaning may be ascribed.

Data Rate (Data Transfer Rate):  In a radio frequency identification system, the rate at which data is communicated between transponder and the reader/interrogator, expressed in baud, bits.s-1 or bytes.s-1

Data Field:  A defined area of memory assigned to a particular item or items of data.

Data Field Protection:  The facility to control access to and operations upon items or fields of data stored within the transponder.

Data Identifier:  A specific character, or string of characters, that denotes the nature or intended use of the data that follows.

Data transfer:  The process of transferring data from a data holding source to a destination.

Database ID Software: Software that allows the saving and storage of cardholder records and data.

Decryption - Decryption is the process of converting encrypted data i.e. ciphertext back into its original form, into its orginal, intelligible form.

DES - The Data Encryption Standard (DES) is a method for encrypting information It is based on a Symmetric-key algorithm that uses a 56-bit key. It was selected as an official Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) for the Unites States.

Demodulation:  Process of recovering channel encoded data from a modulated carrier waveform.
Compare Modulation.

De-tuning:  The reduction in performance of transponders and readers/interrogators caused by the close proximity of metal influencing the resonance of an electronic tuned circuit.

Die: The silicon block onto which circuits have been etched to create a microchip.

Dielectric: Unable to conduct direct electric current. Dielectric substances are used as insulators.

Dielectric constant: The measure of a material’s ability to store a charge when an electric field is applied, or its “capacitance.” If a material has a high dielectric constant, it reflects more RF energy and detunes the antenna more, which makes it harder to tag. Examples of materials with a low dielectric constant are dry paper (2), plastics (most are between 2 and 4), and glass (between 5 and 10). Water’s dielectric constant changes: At room temperature it is 80; near boiling it is 55; and when frozen it is 3.2.

Digital Camera: A camera that records images in digital form. Unlike a traditional analog camera that records infinitely variable intensities of light, a digital camera records discrete numbers for storage on a flash memory card, for example. There is a fixed, maximum resolution and number of colors that can be represented. Images are transferred to a computer with a USB cable, memory card or wireless.

Digital certificate:  A digital message that contains the identity of an company or organization, its public key combined and a signature of this data from a certificate authority (Trust Center) proving the correctness of this data.

Digital Imaging: Scanning or otherwise capturing images which may be subsequently edited, filed, displayed or printed on a plastic card.

Digital signature - Information encrypted with an entity's private key, which is appended to a message to assure the recipient of the authenticity and integrity of the message.

Dipole (antenna):  A fundamental form of antenna, comprising a single conductor of length approximately equal to half the wavelength of the carrier wave. Provides the basis for a range of other more complex forms of antenna.

Directivity–antenna:  The ability of an antenna to concentrate radiated energy in a preferred direction, when considered in a transmitter mode. Alternatively, the ability to reject signals that are off-axis to the normal of the antenna, when considered in the receiver mode. May be expressed as a ratio of power radiated per unit solid angle in a defined direction to the total power radiated by the antenna.
See also Efficiency – antenna.

Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum (DSSS):  A category of spread spectrum modulation in which the source base-band bit stream is multiplied by a fast pseudorandom binary sequence to produce a signal that exhibits broad-band characteristics. Alternatively, the pseudorandom sequence and its inverse are used to represent logic 1 and 0.
See also Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum

Dispersion – pulse:  The spread in duration and form experienced by a pulse in transmission through a communication channel.

Distortion:  Any disturbance that causes an unwarranted change in the form or intelligibility of a signal. The distortion exhibits a noise-like effect that can be quantified as the ratio of the magnitude of the distortion component to the magnitude of the undistorted signal, usually expressed as a percentage.

Downlink:  Term which defines the direction of communications as being from reader/interrogator to transponder. Alternative term for Forward Link.
Compare Uplink

DPI: (Dots per inch) Measurement of a printer's resolution. For example, 600 DPI indicates that the printer can produce 600 dots of color in each inch of a card. 

Direct-to-Card Printing: (DTC) The process used to transfer images directly onto plastic cards by heating a print ribbon beneath a thermal printhead. DTC printing technology is a combination of two printing methods: dye sublimation and resin thermal transfer. 

Dual Interface Card Dual interface cards have contact and contact less interfaces for data and transmission in both ISO7816 and RFID antennas.

Duplex:  A channel capable of transmitting data in both directions at the same time. (Half duplex is a channel capable of transmitting data in both directions, but not simultaneously.)

Duplex (Card Printer Technology): (Dual-sided) Capable of printing on both sides of a card, usually in a single pass. 

Duty cycle:  The length of time the reader can be emitting energy. Regulations in the European Union say readers can be on only 10 percent of the time. 

Dye Sublimation - (Dye diffusion, dye-sub) The print process ID card printers use to print smooth, continuous-tone and photo-quality images. This process uses a dye-based ribbon roll that is divided into a series of color panels. The color panels are grouped in a repeating series of three separate colors along the length of the ribbon: yellow, magenta, and cyan (YMC). As the ribbon and card pass simultaneously beneath the printhead, hundreds of thermal elements heat the dyes on the ribbon. Once the dyes are heated, they vaporize and diffuse into the surface of the card. Varying the heat intensity of each thermal element within the printhead makes it possible for each transferred dot of color to vary in saturation. This blends one color into the next. The result is continuous-tone, photo-realistic color images. 


Edge-to-Edge: (Edgeless/over-the-edge) Refers to the maximum printable area on a card. Printers with edge-to-edge printing capability can print just to the edge of a card resulting in printed cards with virtually no border. Nearly all brands print standard CR80 cards edge-to-edge. NOTE - True EDGE TO EDGE (Full Bleed) printing requires an overprint which can only be achieved through the use of RETRANSFER or LITHOGRAPHIC technology.

EEPROM - Electrically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory (EEPROM) is user-modifiable read-only memory (ROM) that can be reprogrammed and erased.

Effective Isotropic Radiated Power (EIRP):  The product of the input power to an antenna and the gain relative to an isotropic source.

Effective Aperture:  A term denoting the reception capability of a practical antenna expressed as the product of actual aperture and antenna efficiency.
See ‘Propagation’ summary box.

Efficiency-antenna:  Two components distinguishable, radiation efficiency and aperture efficiency. Radiation efficiency is expressed as the ratio of total power radiated by the antenna to total power accepted by the antenna from source – for the transmission mode. Aperture efficiency is expressed as the ratio of effective antenna area to the real area of the antenna.

Electromagnetic Coupling:  A process of transferring modulated data or energy from one system component to another, reader to transponder for example, by means of an electromagnetic field.

Electromagnetic energy:  A process of transferring modulated data or energy from one system component to another, reader to transponder for example, by means of an electromagnetic field.

Electromagnetic Field:  The spatial and temporal manifestation of an electromagnetic source in which magnetic and electric components of intensity can be distinguished and plotted as contours, like contour lines on a map, the planes of the electric and magnetic contours being at right angles to one another. Where the source is varying in time so too the field components vary with time. Where the source launches an electromagnetic wave the field may be considered to be propagating.

Electromagnetic spectrum:  The range or continuum of electromagnetic radiation, characterised in terms of frequency or wavelength.

Electromagnetic wave:  A sinusoidal wave in which electric E and magnetic H components or vectors can be distinguished at right angles to one another, and propagating in a direction that is at right angles to both the E and H vectors. The energy contained within the wave also propagates in the direction at right angles to the E and H vectors. The power delivered in the wave is the vector product of E and H (Poynting Vector).

Electronic article surveillance: Simple electronic tags that can be turned on or off. When an item is purchased (or borrowed from a library), the tag is turned off. When someone passes a gate area holding an item with a tag that hasn't been turned off, an alarm sounds. EAS tags are embedded in the packaging of most pharmaceuticals. They can be RF-based, or acousto-magnetic.

Electronic Data Interchange (EDI):  Communication of a data message, or messages, automatically between computers or information management systems, usually for the purposes of business transactions.

Electronic Data Transfer (EDT):  The transfer of data by electronic communication means from one data handling system to another.

Electronic Label:  An alternative colloquial term for a transponder.

Electronic pedigree: A secure file that stores data about each move a product makes through the supply chain. Pedigrees can help to reduce counterfeiting of drugs and other products.
Electronic Product Code: A serial, created by the Auto-ID Center, which will complement barcodes. The EPC has digits to identify the manufacturer, product category and the individual item.

EMV - EMV is a standard for interoperation of IC cards and IC card processing devices, for financial transaction. The name EMV comes from the initial letters of Europay, MasterCard and VISA, the three companies which originally cooperated to develop the standard. A portion of the standard is also included in ISO 7816 which is based on IC Chip card interface.

Encoding: The process of electronically "writing" information on magnetic stripes or into a variety of smart card types. Holds information such as card holder details and access privileges. 

Encryption - Encryption is the conversion of data into a form, called a ciphertext by using algorithms to ensure secure transmission.

 Encryption:  A means of securing data, often applied to a plain or clear text, by converting it to a form that is unintelligible in the absence of an appropriate decryption key.
See also Scrambling.

Enrolling/Enrollment The process of collecting biometric data from the individual, which is later, processed and stored as a template.

Environmental Parameters:  Parameters, such as temperature, pressure, humidity, noise that can have a bearing or impact upon system performance.

Error:  In digital data terms, a result of capture, storage, processing or communication of data in which a bit or bits assume the wrong values, or bits are missing from a data stream.

Error burst:  A group of bits in which two successive erroneous bits are always separated by less than a given number of correct bits.

Error control:  Collective term to accommodate error detection and correction schemes applied to handle errors arising within a data capture or handling system.
See also Redundancy.

Error detection:  A term to denote a scheme or action to determine the presence of errors in a data stream.

Error correction:  A term to denote a scheme or action for correcting an error detected in a data stream.

Error correcting code (ECC):  Supplemental bits introduced or source encoded into a data stream to allow automatic correction of erroneous bits and/or derivation of missing bits, in accordance with a specific computational algorithm.

Error correcting mode:  Mode defined for a data communication or handling process in which missing or erroneous bits are automatically corrected.

Error correcting protocol:  The rules by which an error correcting mode operates.

Error management:  Techniques used to identify and/or correct errors within a data capture and handling system with the objective of assuring the accuracy of data presented to the system user.

Ethernet Interface: A local area network (LAN) architecture that supports data transfer at varying speeds.  Connection to the network is through an RJ45 interface on the printer and is either by DHCP or STATIC IP.

ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute):  The European standards organization responsible for standardization in telecommunications.

European Article Number: A system for identifying products developed by EAN International, the bar code standards body in Europe. There are several types of bar codes that use EANs, including EAN-8, EAN-13 and EAN-14.

Event data: Information related to a transaction or incident with significance to the business. If a tag on a pallet is read as the pallet leaves a dock door, an event is recorded (the pallet was shipped). If a reader reads a tag on a pallet in a storage bay 100 times per minute but the pallet never moves, data is generated, but there is no event.

Exciter:  The electronic circuits used to drive an antenna. The combination of exciter and antenna is often referred to as the transmitter or scanner.

Extended Binary Coded Data Interchange Code  (EBCDIC):  An eight-bit binary code set, sometimes referred to as extended ASCII, wherein the 128 character set of ASCII are accommodated, together with other characters and control functions, making up a total set of 256 characters.


Factory Programming:  The entering of data into a transponder as part of the manufacturing process, resulting in a read-only tag.  Compare Field Programming.

False Acceptance Rate Also known as FAR. Measures how frequently unauthorized persons are accepted by the system due to erroneous matching. Potentially serious. The FAR of BioCert devices is currently about .001%.

False Activation:  The result of a ‘foreign’ or non-assigned transponder entering the interrogation zone of a radio frequency identification system and affecting a response, erroneous or otherwise.

Far Field:  The region of an electromagnetic radiation field at a distance from the antenna in which the field distribution is unaffected by the antenna structure and the wave propagates as a plane wave.
Compare Near Field.

FCC - The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is an independent United States government agency. FCC in charge with regulating interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable.

Field of View:  The zone surrounding a reader/interrogator in which the reader/interrogator is capable of communicating with a transponder.

Field Programming:  Entry of data by an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) or user into a transponder by means of a proprietary programming system, usually undertaken before the device is attached to the item to be identified or accompanied. This facility is usually associated with Write Once Read Many (WORM) and read/write (RW) devices.
The data entered into a transponder may be by a combination of factory and field programming.
Compare In-use Programming.

Field Strength:  The intensity of a field measured in units appropriate to the field concerned. Electric field strengths are measured in volts per meter (V.m-1) and magnetic field strengths in amperes per meter (A.m-1).

File:  A set of data stored within a computer, portable data terminal or information management system.

Filler Character:  A redundant character inserted into a data field simply to achieve a desired field length. Also known as a pad character.

Fingerprint Capture and Storage: A method of encoding the fingerprint on the card in either visible, barcode (PDF417), or on the chip within the card.

Fingerprint Reader: (Fingerprint capture device, fingerprint scanner) A form of biometrics technology in which a scanner is used to identify a person's fingerprint for security purposes. After a sample is taken, access is granted if the fingerprint matches the stored sample. 

Firmware: Coded instructions that are stored permanently in read-only memory. When upgrading a reader to read a new protocol, the firmware usually has to be changed. Some newer readers can be upgraded remotely over a network.

FIPS 201 Federal Information Processing Standards 201 creates the framework from the smart card security for PIV IDs.

The US General Services Administration’s (GSA) Approved Products List (APL), is an important requirement in the procurement process for the US Federal Government Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 (HSPD-12). By fall this year all US Government agencies must initiate the deployment of smart card based ID cards, the so-called PIV (Personal Identity Verification) Cards. 

Font: A character set (alphabet and numerals) of a specified design and size.  

Form factor: The packaging in which a transponder can be put. These include thermal transfer labels, plastic cards, key fobs and so on.

Forward Link: Communications from reader/interrogator to transponder. Alternatively known as Downlink.
Compare Uplink.

Frequency:  The number of cycles a periodic signal executes in unit time. Usually expressed in Hertz (cycles per second) or appropriate weighted units such as kilohertz (kHz), Megahertz (MHz) and Gigahertz (GHz).

Frequency Hop Rate:  The frequency at which a frequency hopping spread spectrum (FHSS) system moves between transmission frequencies. It is equal to the reciprocal of the dwell time at a FHSS centre frequency.

Frequency Hop Sequence:  A pseudorandom binary sequence (PRBS) determining the hopping frequencies used in frequency hopping spread spectrum (FHSS) systems.

Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum (FHSS):  A category of spread spectrum modulation in which each bit of data is divided into chips and each chip is represented by a different spectral component or tone in the spread spectrum band using a pseudorandom sequence to assign tones. Modulated in this way the transmissions hop from frequency to frequency within the band, requiring a receiver synchronized to the pseudorandom chipping sequence to recover the data.
See also Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum.

Frequency Modulation (FM):  Representation of data or signal states by using different transmission frequencies. Where data is in binary form, the modulation constitutes two transmission frequencies and is referred to as Frequency Shift Keying (FSK).

Frequency Shift Keying (FSK):  Representation of binary data by switching between two different transmission frequencies.

Full Duplex (FDX):  A channel communications protocol that allows a channel to transmit data in both directions at the same time. In RFID, the method of information exchange in which the information is communicated while the transceiver transmits the activation field.


GSA APL In order to eliminate the need for every agency to test and certify products to implement into HSPD-12, The General Services Administration (GSA) was asked to create an Approved Products List (APL). The GSA APL will serve as the buying guide for all of the US Federal Government Agencies. As agencies begin to implement their HSPD-12 and PIV solutions they will use the GSA APL to provide assurance that the products they are purchasing meet guidelines and technical specifications.

Global Commerce Initiative: A user group founded in October 1999 by manufacturers, retailers and trade industry associations, to improve the performance of the international supply chain for consumer goods through the collaborative development and endorsement of recommended voluntary standards and best practices. Its charter is to drive the implementation of EAN•UCC standards and best practices, including use of EPC.

Global data synchronization: A term that generally refers to the process of ensuring that a manufacturer's master files with product information match those of retailers. GDS is an important prerequisite to deploying RFID in open supply chains because companies need to ensure that RFID serial numbers refer to the right product information in a database.

Global Location Number: A numbering scheme created by EAN International and the Uniform Code Council to as a means to identify virtually limitless numbers of legal entities, trading parties and locations to support the requirements of electronic commerce (B2B and B2C). Parties and locations that can be identified with GLNs include functional entities (e.g., a purchasing, accounting or returns department), physical entities (e.g., a particular room in a building, warehouse, loading dock, delivery point) and legal entities or trading partners (e.g. buyers, sellers, whole companies, subsidiaries or divisions such as suppliers, customers, financial services companies, or freight forwarders).

Global Positioning System: Developed for and managed by the United States military, GPS is a satellite navigation system. It consists of 24 satellites above the earth. They transmit radio signals to receivers placed on ships, trucks or other large assets that need to be tracked. The receivers compute longitude and latitude and velocity by calculating the difference in the time signals are received from four different satellites. Some companies are integrating RFID and GPS systems to track assets in transit.

Global Trade Item Number (GTIN): A standardized system of identifying products and services created by the Uniform Code Council and EAN International. Product identification numbers, such as EAN/UCC-8, UCC-12, EAN/UCC-13, and EAN/UCC-14, are based on the GTIN.

GSM - Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) is the most popular standard for mobile phones in the world. Both signaling and speech channels in GSM are digital, and thus is considered a second generation (2G) mobile phone system.

Guilloche Pattern: (Fine line pattern or design) An overt, visual security element consisting of a pattern of curving and overlapping fine lines on a card. Guilloche patterns produce an illusion of motion when viewed at certain angles and therefore can be verified by the naked eye but not reproduced via a desktop printer.


Half  Duplex (HDX):  A channel communications protocol that allows a channel to transmit data in both directions but not at the same time. In RFID, the method of information exchange in which the information  is communicated after the transceiver has stopped transmitting the activation field.

Half Panel YMCKO Ribbon: Consists of half of the normal yellow (Y), magenta (M) and cyan (C) color panels, but full panels of the black (K) and clear overlay (O). The purpose of this ribbon is to allow twice the normal ribbon yield than the standard YMKCO ribbon at a lower cost per card when printing only half of the front of the card in full color such as on an ID badge. YMCKO half panel ribbon is ideal for cards when a color ID picture is needed, along with some background black resin text, logo or barcode printing. Practical applications include student ID cards, employee ID cards and driver's licenses.

Handshaking:  A protocol or sequence of signals for controlling the flow of data between devices, which can be hardware implemented or software implemented.

Harmonics:  Multiples of a principal frequency, invariably exhibiting lower amplitudes. Harmonics can be generated as a result of circuit non-linearities associated with radio transmissions resulting in harmonic distortion. See also Spurious emissions.

Hash function - In cryptography, Hash function is a procedure in which the any arbitrary block of data is converted into fixed size bit string called the hash value, and any change to the data will result in change in the hash value.

Hexadecimal (Hex):  A column placing method of representing data to the base of 16, using digits 0-9 and letters A to F for decimal values 10 - 15. For example, 1010 = A16 and 2210 = 6F16 Used as a convenient short hand notation for representing 16 and 32 bit memory addresses.

HID - Human interface device (HID) is a type of computer device that interacts directly with, and most often takes input from, humans and may deliver output to humans.

High Coercivity: (HiCo) Magnetic coding on a magnetic stripe. HiCo stripes are encoded at 2750 Oersted. HiCo stripes are generally black and store information on a more secure basis than low coercivity magnetic stripes, due to the higher level of magnetic energy required to encode them. The encoding technique is the same as for LoCo technology, except that it requires a stronger electrical current in the write head. Virtually immune to domestic-type magnets, HiCo substantially decreases the chances of accidental data erasure. Despite this superiority, HiCo hasn’t yet replaced LoCo technology, due to the widely established base of LoCo encoders and the increased cost of HiCo encoders. Standard magnetic stripe readers, however, can read either HiCo or LoCo stripes.  High-coercivity cards are currently used in applications where the need for performance, for example in critical test equipment, outweighs price. A single magnetic stripe can hold several tracks of recorded data, which can be rewritten and updated.  

High Definition Printing: (HDP or RETRANSFER) This process prints full color images onto clear or holographic HDP transfer film. The HDP film is then fused to the card through heat and pressure via a heated roller. This revolutionary technology enhances protection against card tampering and everyday wear and tear, in addition to consistently producing the best card color available. HDP printing is ideal for printing on cards with uneven surfaces or unique features, such as proximity cards, smart cards and tough-to-print matte-finished cards. An example of HDP printing is the series of Fargo HDP5000 printers.

High-frequency: This is generally considered to be from 3 MHz to 30 MHz. HF RFID tags typically operate at 13.56 MHz. They can be read from less than 3 feet away and transmit data faster than low-frequency tags. But they consume more power than low-frequency tags.

High Volume Printing: (High throughput) Fast, efficient printing for producing large quantities of cards with minimal downtime for supply loading or maintenance.  The Evolis Quantum is a good example of a High Volume Printer.

Hologram: A unique photographic printing that provides a three dimensional (3D) effect on a flat surface; usually applied to ID cards as a laminate but can also be built into blank card stock. Holograms cannot be easily copied and are used for visual security and aesthetic purposes on cards. 

Hopper: Input and output hoppers hold card stock as they are fed and ejected from the ID card printer. 

Host system: A computer on a network, which provides services to users or other computers on that network.

HSPD-12 Abbreviation for US Federal government's Homeland Security Presidential Directive, which is a set of requirements for government agencies to improve their security infrastructure.

 Hybrid card: A smart card that has both a contactless IC and a contact IC. Unlike a dual interface card, a hybrid card acts as two separate cards.

Hysteresis: A retardation of an effect when the forces acting upon a body are changed. When corrugated boxes and other materials absorb water and then dry, they are never as RF-friendly as they were before they became moist.


ID Filter:  A software facility that compares a newly read identification (ID) with those within a database or set, with a view to establishing a match.

Impact:  Any influence upon a system, environmental or otherwise, that can influence its operational performance.

Incorrect Read:  The failure to read correctly all or part of the data set intended to be retrieved from a transponder during read or interrogation process. Alternative term for Misread.

In-Field Reporting:  A mode of operation in which a reader/interrogator reports a transponder ID on entering the interrogation zone and then refrains from any further reports until a prescribed interval of time has elapsed.
See also Out of Field Reporting.

In-Use Programming:  The ability to read from and write to a transponder while it is attached to the object or item for which it is being used.
Compare Factory Programming, Field Programming.

Inductive coupling:  A process of transferring modulated data or energy from one system component to another, reader to transponder for example, by means of a varying magnetic field.

Interface:  A physical or electrical interconnection between communicating devices.
See also RS232, RS422 and RS485.

Interference:  Unwanted electromagnetic signals, where encountered within the environment of a radio frequency identification system, cause disturbance in its normal operation, possibly resulting in bit errors, and degrading system performance.

Interchangeability:  The condition that exists between devices or systems that exhibit equivalent functionality, interface features and performance to allow one to be exchanged for another, without alteration, and achieve the same operational service. An alternative term for compatibility.
Compare Interoperability.

Intelligent reader:  A generic term that is sometimes used to describe a reader that has the ability to filter data, execute commands and generally perform functions similar to a personal computer.

Intentional radiator:  A device that produces a RF signal for the purpose of data communications. Examples. Include garage door openers, cordless phones, RFID transmitter and so on.

Interface: A connection standard for transferring data that is recognized by all PCs or Macintosh computers. For example, a parallel printer port is a common interface found on virtually all PCs for transferring data from the computer to a printer. Other interfaces include USB and ethernet.  

International Organization for Standardization (ISO): A non-governmental organization made up of the national standards institutes of 146 countries. Each member country has one representative and the organization maintains a Central Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland, that coordinates the system.

Interoperability:  The ability of systems, from different vendors, to execute bi-directional data exchange functions, in a manner that allows them to operate effectively together.

Interrogation:  The process of communicating with, and reading a transponder

Interrogator:  A fixed or mobile data capture and identification device using a radio frequency  electromagnetic field to stimulate and effect a modulated data response from a  transponder or group of transponders present in the interrogation zone. Often used as an alternative term to Reader.
See also Reader.

Interrogation zone:  The region in which a transponder or group of transponders can be effectively read by an associated radio frequency identification reader/interrogator.

Intersymbol Interference:  Interference arising within a serial bit stream as a result of pulse dispersion and consequential overlapping pulse edges, leading possibly to decoding errors at the receiver.

IC - The Certification and Engineering Bureau of Industry Canada provides a certification service for both radio and terminal equipment in Canada. Testing of either radio or terminal equipment, to establish compliance with Industry Canada standards, is performed in private sector laboratories.

ISO\IEC 7810, 11, 12, and 13 series of standards specify card size, mag stripe encoding with a three-track format, encoding scheme, and bit density for all financial card applications.

ISO 7816 - ISO/IEC 7816 is an international standard related to contact type smart cards, managed jointly by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electro technical Commission (IEC). It includes physical characteristics, dimension and location of contacts and the interface and transmission protocols

ISO14443 - ISO 14443 is an international standard related to smart cards for contactless smart cards operating at 13.56 MHz in close proximity with a reader antenna. This ISO standard sets communication standards and transmission protocols between card and reader to create interoperability for contactless smart card products.

ISO 10536: The international standard for proximity cards

ISO 11784: The international standard defining frequencies, baud rate, bit coding and data structures of the transponders used for animal identification.

ISO 15693: The international standard for vicinity smart cards.

ISO 18000: A series of international standards for the air interface protocol used in RFID systems for tagging goods within the supply chain.

ISO 18092 - ISO18092 is an international standard that defines communication modes for Near Field Communication Interface and Protocol (NFCIP-1) using inductive coupled devices operating at the centre frequency of 13.56 MHz for interconnection of computer peripherals. It also defines both the Active and the Passive communication modes of NFCIP-1 to realize a communication network using Near Field Communication devices for networked products and also for consumer equipment.

Identification Also known as one-to-many or 1:n comparison. Authentication mode that compares the current biometric data set against all other reference data of persons previously recorded in the system. This method does not require any accompanying information to be provided with the fingerprint. It is user-friendly but inherently slower and less secure than the verification mode

Isotropic source:  An ideal electromagnetic source or radiator exhibiting a perfect spherical energy radiation pattern.

Item-level:  A term used to describe the tagging of individual products, as opposed to case-level and pallet-level tagging.


JIS II: Japanese Industrial Standard for magnetic stripe encoding. JIS II is published and translated into English by the Japan Standards Association. 


Key FOB: A security token that can be attached to a keychain.

Key Tag: A card that can be attached to a key-chain.  As an example, ASG sells a standard CR80 card that can break into three key tags after printing. 


Label applicator:  A device that applies labels to cases or other items. Some label applicators can print bar codes on and encode RFID transponders in labels before applying the labels.

Lamination: (Overlamination) The process of combining lamination material and core material using time, heat and pressure. Available in clear or holographic designs and in varying thicknesses, laminate patches used in card printers come on rolls, with and without carriers/liners and are typically used for high usage cards (e.g., cards that must be swiped through a reader) or to add advanced visual card security.

Landing Type Card acceptor - Smart card acceptor for the card reader that allows minimal contact between the contact pads on the Card and the acceptor

Lanyard: A ribbon with a clip worn around the neck, usually used to display one's credentials. 

Latent Fingerprint Latent fingerprints are "left over" fragments usually caused by the build-up of oily residues on the optic sensor window after repeated use. The technique used by BioCert devices to defeat "faked" fingerprints also prevents latent fingerprints from being incorrectly validated by the system.

LCD - Liquid crystal display (LCD) is an electro-optical amplitude modulator realized as a thin, flat display device made up of any number of color or monochrome pixels arrayed in front of a light source or reflector. It is often utilized in battery-powered electronic devices because it uses very small amounts of electric power.

LED - Light Emitting Diode (LED) is a semiconductor light source that emits visible light when an electric current is applied in the forward direction of it.

License plate:  This term generally applies to a simple RFID that has only a serial number that is associated with information in a database. The Auto-ID Center promoted the concept as a way to simplify the tag and reduce the cost.

Lifetime:  The period of time during which an item of equipment exists and functions according to specification.
See also Mean time between failures and Mean Time to Repair.

Linear-polarized antenna:  An antenna that focuses the radio energy from the reader in one orientation or polarity. This increases the read distance possible and can provide greater penetration through dense materials. Tags designed to be used with a linear polarized reader antenna must be aligned with the reader antenna in order to be read. (See circular-polarized antenna.)

Low Coercivity: (LoCo) Magnetic coding on a magnetic stripe. LoCo stripes are encoded at 300 Oersted. Low coercivity stripes are generally brown and store information less securely than high coercivity magnetic stripes. LoCo magnetic stripe cards are often used in hotel room access control applications.  

Low-frequency:  From 30 kHz to 300 kHz. Low-frequency tags typical operate at 125 kHz or 134 kHz. The main disadvantages of low-frequency tags are they have to be read from within three feet and the rate of data transfer is slow. But they are less subject to interference than UHF tags.


MAC - Message Authentication Code (MAC) is a short piece of information used to authenticate a message. A MAC algorithm accepts as input a secret key and an arbitrary-length message to be authenticated, and generates a MAC.

Machine Readable: A code or characters that can be read by machines such as the codes on Passports and ID Cards.

Magnetic Stripe: (Magstripe) Refers to the black or brown magnetic stripe on a card. The stripe is made of magnetic particles of resin. The resin particle material determines the coercivity of the stripe; the higher the coercivity, the harder it is to encode and erase information from the stripe. Magnetic stripes are often used in applications for access control, time and attendance, lunch programs, library cards and more.

Amount of data that can be encoded to a magnetic stripe (per ISO 7811 format):

  • Track 1: 210 bits/inch (BPI), 7 bits/character (MPC), maximum of 79 alpha-numeric characters.
  • Track 2:  75 bits/inch (BPI), 5 bits/character (MPC), maximum of 40 numeric characters.
  • Track 3: 210 bits/inch (BPI), 5 bits/character (MPC), maximum of 107 numeric characters.

Manchester coding:  A bi-phase code format in which each bit in the source encoded form is represented by two bits in the derived or channel encoded form. The transformation rule ascribes 01 to represent 0 and 10 to represent 1.

Manufacturers Tag ID (MfrTagID):  A reference number which uniquely identifies the tag.

MAP: (Minimum advertised pricing) The manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) or an alternative manufacturer or distributor established price that some products are required to be advertised at.   ASG's prices are always much lower than MAP pricing.

MasterCard CAP - MasterCard CAP (MasterCard Chip Authentication Programme). MasterCard International has developed the MasterCard SecureCode program to offer flexible, robust and easy to implement solutions for cardholder authentication for electronic commerce. This program provides issuers a choice of a broad array of security solutions for authenticating cardholders. These solutions include the PC authentication program, chip authentication program and MasterCard’s implementation of 3-D Secure.

Matching Biometric data (e.g. fingerprints) are matched to another sample to confirm a person’s identity (authentication). For example, BioCert biometric systems use optic scanners to collect fingerprint minutiae, then create mathematical templates based on that information for storage. New input fingerprints are scanned and compared to the stored samples. If the minutiae matching threshold is met, the person is authenticated.

Mean time between failures (MTBF):  The average or mean time interval between failures, often expressed as the reciprocal of the constant failure rate.

Mean time to repair:  The length of time that a system is non-operational between failure and repair.

Memory:  A means of storing data in electronic form. A variety of random access (RAM), read-only (ROM), Write Once-Read Many (WORM) and read/write (RW) memory devices can be distinguished. In RFID terms, it’s the amount of data that can be stored on the microchip in an RFID tag. It can range from 64 bits to 2 kilobytes or more on passive tags.

Memory block:  Memory on the microchip in an RFID tag is usually divided into sections, which can be read or written to individually. Some blocks might be locked, so data can't be overwritten, while others are not.

Memory Card (Serial Memories Card): A type of smart card. Also known as a synchronous card, it features 256 bit or 32 byte memory and is suitable for use as a token card or identification card.  An example of this type of card is the SLE4442 or SLE4428 cards from Siemens.

Memory Modules:  Colloquial term for a read/write or re-programmable transponder.

Microcontroller:  A complete microprocessor on a chip. A microcontroller includes a central processing unit, RAM or EPROM, clock and control circuits, and serial and parallel I/0 ports.

Microprocessor:  The silicon chip that is the heart of a computing system. It includes a central processing unit, internal registers, control logic and bus interfaces to external memory and input-output ports. Some advanced systems also include floating point processors and some memory.

Microprocessor Card: A type of smart card, also known as an asynchronous card. Features 1 kilobyte to 128 kilobytes of memory and is suitable for portable or confidential files, identification, tokens, electronic purses or any combination of uses.  An example of this type of card is the ACOS3 smart card from ACS.

Microtext: An overt, visual security element that is usually placed within a line or artwork element on a card. Only a few thousandths of an inch high, microtext is visible only under magnification, and therefore cannot be duplicated by dye sublimation, inkjet or laser printers.

Microwave: A high-frequency electromagnetic wave, one millimeter to one meter in wavelength.

Microwave tags:  A term that is sometimes used to refer to RFID tags that operate at 5.8 GHz. They have very high transfer rates and can be read from as far as 30 feet away, but they use a lot of power and are expensive. (Some people refer to any tag that operates above about 415 MHz as a microwave tag.)

Middleware:  In the RFID world, this term is generally used to refer to software that resides on a server between readers and enterprise applications. The middleware is used to filter data and pass on only useful information to enterprise applications. Some middleware can also be used to manage readers on a network.

Mifare Mifare is an interface for contact less smart cards and smart card readers. It has been developed by Philips and influencing the ISO14443 Standard.

Minutiae The unique, measurable physical characteristics scanned as input and stored for matching by biometric systems. For fingerprints, minutiae include the starting and ending points of ridges, bifurcations and ridge junctions among other features.

Misread:  A condition that exists when the data retrieved by the reader/interrogator is different from the corresponding data within the transponder.

Modulation:  A term to denote the process of superimposing (modulating) channel encoded data or signals onto a radio frequency carrier to enable the data to be effectively coupled or propagated across an air interface. Also used as an associative term for methods used to modulate carrier waves. Methods generally rely on the variation of key parameter values of amplitude, frequency or phase. Digital modulation methods principally feature amplitude shift keying (ASK), frequency shift keying (FSK), phase shift keying (PSK) or variants.
See also Amplitude, Frequency and Phase Modulation, Amplitude Shift Keying, Frequency Shift Keying and Phase Shift Keying.

Modulation Index:  The size of variation of the modulation parameter (amplitude, frequency or phase) exhibited in the modulation waveform.

Monochrome: ("Mono") A single color (does not only apply to black). 

Multi-factor authentication - Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is a security procedure in which the user has to authenticate more than one time using different authentication methods.

Multiple Reading:  The process or capability of a radio frequency identification reader/interrogator to read a number of transponders present within the system’s interrogation zone at the same time.  Alternative term for Batch Reading.

Multiplexor (Multiplexer):  A device for connecting a number of data communication channels and combining the separate channel signals into one composite stream for onward transmission through a single link to a central data processor or information management system. At its destination the multiplexed stream is de-multiplexed to separate the constituent signals. Multiplexors are similar to concentrators in many respects, a distinction being that concentrators usually have a buffering capability to ‘queue’ inputs that would otherwise exceed transmission capacity.  See also Concentrator.


NFC - Near Field Communication (NFC) is a short-range high frequency wireless connectivity technology which enables the exchange of data between devices over about a 10 cm (around 4 inches) distance.

Near-field communication:  RFID reader antennas emit electromagnetic radiation (radio waves). If an RFID tag is within full wavelength of the reader, it is sometimes said to be in the "near field" (as with many RFID terms, definitions are not precise). If it is more than the distance of one full wavelength away, it is said to be in the "far field." The near field signal decays as the cube of distance from the antenna, while the far field signal decays as the square of the distance from the antenna. So passive RFID systems that rely on near-field communication (typically low- and high-frequency systems) have a shorter read range than those that use far field communication (UHF and microwave systems

Network ID Software: Software that allows the saving, storage and sharing of cardholder records and data across multiple facilities, departments and applications. 

Network Printer: A printer available for use by workstations on a network. A network printer either has its own built-in network interface card, or it is connected to a printer on the network.  NOTE - Smart Card encoding can only be accomplished on a direct attached printer or one that is connected to a dedicated computer on the network.

NIST Abbreviation for the National Institute for Standardization of Technology, which is an agency of the US Federal Government which establishes standards and guidelines for private and public sector purposes

Noise:  Unwanted extraneous electromagnetic signals encountered within the environment, usually exhibiting random or wide band characteristics, and viewed as a possible source of errors through influence upon system performance.

Noise immunity:  A measure of the extent or capability of a system to operate effectively in the presence of noise.


Oersted (Oe): The unit of magnetic coercive force used to define difficulty of erasure of magnetic material. 

Omnidirectional:  A description of a transponder's ability to be read in any orientation.

On-off Keying (OOK):  A special case of amplitude shift keying (ASK) in which the carrier is switched between full carrier amplitude and zero or absence of carrier amplitude, according to data value (1 or 0).

Open Systems:  Within the context of radio frequency identification,  they are systems in which data handling, including capture, storage and communication, is determined by agreed standards, so allowing various and different users to operate without reference to a central control facility.

Open DataBase Connection: (ODBC) An ID card software with an ODBC connection allows you to share card data between its internal database and an outside database.  Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) provides a standard software API method for using database management systems (DBMS). The designers of ODBC aimed to make it independent of programming languages, database systems, and operating systems.

Orientation:  The attitude of a transponder with respect to the antenna, expressed in three dimensional angular terms, with range of variation expressed in terms of skew, pitch and roll.

Orientation Sensitivity:  The sensitivity of response for a transponder expressed as a function of angular variation or orientation.

OTP - One time password (OTP) is a one-time PIN that is generated by reader. There are basically three types of one-time passwords:

  1. Uses a mathematical algorithm to generate a new password based on the previous,
  2. Based on time-synchronization between the authentication server and the client providing the password,
  3. Using a mathematical algorithm, but the new password is based on a challenge and a counter instead of being based on the previous password.

Out of Field Reporting:  A mode of operation in which the identification of a transponder is reported as or once the transponder leaves the reader interrogation zone.

Output Stacker: (Output hopper) Stores printed cards in a first-in/first-out order. This feature makes it easy to keep printed cards in a specific order for faster issuance or to print serialized cards.

Overcoat: (Overlay, topcoat) The last layer ('O' in YMCKO) that is placed onto an ID card after the color or monochrome panels have been applied. Overcoat provides some protection from fading and scratching on the card.

Oversized Cards: Used for more efficient visual identification and are available in many non-standard sizes. The most popular sizes are CR90 (3.63" x 2.37"/92 mm x 6 0mm) and CR100 (3.88" x 2.63"/98.5 mm x 67 mm).

Overlamination: (Lamination) The process of combining lamination material and core material using time, heat and pressure. Available in clear or holographic designs and in varying thicknesses, laminate patches used in card printers come on rolls, with and without carriers/liners and are typically used for high usage cards (e.g., cards that must be swiped through a reader) or to add advanced visual card security.

Overlay: (Overcoat, topcoat) The clear overlay panel (O) is provided on dye sublimation print ribbons. This panel is automatically applied to printed cards and helps prevent images from some premature wear or UV fading. All dye sublimation printed images must have either this overlay panel or an overlaminate applied to protect them.

Over-the-Edge: (Edge-to-edge/edgeless) Refers to the maximum printable area on a card. Printers with over-the-edge printing capability can print past the edge of a card resulting in printed cards with absolutely no border.


Parallel Interface: A channel or transmission path capable of transferring more than one bit simultaneously.  Also known as the standard printer port on most older computers.

Parity:  A simple error detecting technique, used to detect data transmission errors, in which an extra bit (0 or 1) is added to each binary represented character to achieve an even number of 1 bits (even parity) or an odd number of 1 bits (odd parity). By checking the parity of the characters received a single errors can be detected. The same principle can be applied to blocks of binary data.

Passive Transponder (Tag):  A battery-free data carrying device that reacts to a specific, reader produced, inductively coupled or radiated electromagnetic field, by delivering a data modulated radio frequency response. Having no internal power source, passive transponders derive the power they require to respond from the reader/interrogator's electromagnetic field.  Compare Active Transponders (Tags).

PC/SC - PC/SC is a specification for smart card integration in computing environment which is a communication protocol between the smart card reader and smart card. It offers interoperability of the products from different vendors by providing a standard high level programming interface which increases the flexibility and independence of PC-based software.

PCMCIA - PCMCIA i.e. Personal Computer Memory Card International Association is an international standards body with over 100 member companies which was founded in 1989 to establish standards for Integrated Circuit cards and to promote interchangeability among mobile computers.

PIN - Personal identification number (PIN) is an unique combination of numbers which separates one user from others in the group. It helps in doing secure transactions and commonly issued by banks to its customers.

Penetration:  Term used to indicate the ability of electromagnetic waves to propagate into or through materials. Non-conducting materials are essentially transparent to electromagnetic waves, but absorption mechanisms, particularly at higher frequencies, reduce the amount of energy propagating through the material. Metals constitute good reflectors for freely propagating electromagnetic waves, with very little of an incident wave being able to propagate into the metal surface.

PET: (Plain polyethylene terephthalate or polyester) Is most commonly associated with a material from which cloth and high performance clothing are produced (e.g., DuPont Dacron polyester fiber). Composite cards produced for use in the identification industry are made from PET-G, also known as glycolized polyester. The 'G' represents glycol modifiers, which are incorporated to minimize brittleness and premature aging that occur if unmodified amorphous polyethylene terephthalate (APET) is used in the production of cards. 

Phase Modulation (PM):  Representation of data or signal states by the phase of a fixed frequency sinusoidal carrier wave. Where data is in binary form the modulation involves a phase difference of 180o between the binary states and is referred to as Phase Shift Keying (PSK).

Phase Shift Keying (PSK):  Representation of binary data states, 0 and 1, by the phase of a fixed frequency sinusoidal carrier wave, a difference of 180o being used to represent the respective values.

PIV-card Personal Identity Verification Card required to be issued to all US Federal employees and contractors under HSPD-12.

PKCS#11 - PKCS#11 is one of the family of standards called Public-Key Cryptography Standards (PKCS). It defines a platform-independent API to cryptographic tokens. PKCS#11 API defines most commonly used cryptographic object types (RSA keys, X.509 Certificates, DES/Triple DES keys, etc.) and all the functions needed to use, create/generate, modify and delete those objects.

PKI - In cryptography, public key infrastructure (PKI) is an arrangement of creating a secure chain of trust for Internet-based communication

Polar Field Diagram:  A graphical representation of the electric or magnetic field intensity components of an electromagnetic field, expressed on a polar co-ordinate system (distance v angle, through 360o). Typically used to illustrate the field characteristics of an antenna.

Polarisation:  The locus or path described by the electric field vector of an electromagnetic wave, with respect to time.

Poly-Composite Cards: (Composite or comp cards) A polyester core sandwiched between PVC material. Stronger and more durable than regular PVC cards, comp cards are recommended for utilization in high-usage environments or if lamination is part of one's particular ID card printing process. (Composition is 40% polyester/PET and 60% PVC material.)  

Port Concentrator:  A device that accepts the outputs from a number of data communication interfaces for onward transmission into a communications network.

Power-levels and flux density:  The vector product of electric and magnetic  field strengths within an electromagnetic wave, expressed as levels in watts and as a power flux density, measured at a distance from the source, in watts per square meter (W.m-2). Low power radio frequency transmissions are generally expressed in milli- or microwatts.
It is usual to express the levels and flux densities in terms of decibels, whereby the power level is referenced to an appropriate level, such as a watt or a milliwatt. Using this approach levels are distinguished in dBW (reference to 1 watt) and dBm (referenced to 1mW) and power flux densities in terms of dBW.m-2.
Note: Power level (dB) = 10 log10 Pr/Pref where Pr is the measured power and Pref the reference power level.

Printhead: The element of the card printer that applies the text, graphics and images to the card material. 

Printer Driver: The software that enables your operating system to properly build and format commands and data bound for your printer. In effect, a printer driver tells your operating system all that it needs to know to successfully operate your printer. 

Private key - A unique secret key used by one or more parties to encrypt/ decrypt the data sent to each other.

Programmability:  The ability to enter data and to change data stored in a transponder.

Programmer:  An electronic device for entering or changing (programming) data in a transponder, usually via a close proximity, inductively coupled data transfer link.

Programming:  The act of entering or changing data stored in a transponder.

Projected lifetime:  The estimated lifetime for a transponder often expressed in terms of read and/or write cycles or, for active transponders, years, based upon battery life expectancy and, as appropriate, read/write activity.
Protocol:  A set of rules governing a particular function, such as the flow of data/information in a communication system.

Proximity:  Term often used to indicate closeness of one system component with respect to another, such as that of a transponder with respect to a reader.

Proximity Card: (Prox card/contactless smart card) Used for access control applications. Embedded in the card is a metallic antenna coil, which allows it to communicate with an external antenna. Because the cards require only close proximity to an RF antenna in order to be read, they are referred to as contactless cards. 

Proximity Card Encoder: Uses a HID ProxPoint Plus reader mounted on the e-card docking station inside the printer/encoder. The ProxPoint is a "read only" device producing a Wiegand signal that is converted to RS-232 using a Cypress Computer System CVT-2232.   Application programs can read information from HID prox cards via an RS-232 signal through a dedicated DB-9 port on the outside of the printer if so equipped.

Proximity sensor:  An electronic device that detects and signals the presence of a selected object. When used in association with a radio frequency identification system the sensor is set up to sense the presence of a tagged or transponder carrying object when it enters the vicinity of the reader/interrogator so that the reader can then be activated to effect a read.

Public key - A specific key that is published and available to anyone.

Pulse dispersion:  The spread in width or duration of a pulse during transmission through a practical transmission system, due to the influence of distributed reactive components

PVC: (Polyvinyl chloride) The primary material used for typical plastic cards


QR code (abbreviated from Quick Response code) is a type of matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code) first designed for the automotive industry. More recently, the system has become popular outside of the industry due to its fast readability and comparatively large storage capacity. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The information encoded can be made up of any kind of data (e.g., binary, alphanumeric, or Kanji symbols).

The amount of data that can be stored in the QR code depends on the character set, version and error correction level. The maximum values for version 40 with error correction capacity level L:

  • Numeric only     Max. 7,089 characters
  • Alphanumeric     Max. 4,296 characters
  • Binary (8 bits) Max. 2,953 bytes
  • Kanji/Kana     Max. 1,817 characters


Radio Frequency Identification System (RFID):  An automatic identification and data capture system comprised of one or more reader/interrogators and one or more transponders in which data transfer is achieved by means of suitably modulated inductive or radiating electromagnetic carriers.  A wireless technology for communication between electronic devices. In the ID card industry, it is RFID technology that enables a contactless smart card to communicate with a reader.

Radio Frequency Tag:  Alternative term for a transponder.

Range – Read:  The maximum distance between the antenna of a reader/interrogator and a transponder over which the read function can be effectively performed. The distance will be influenced by orientation and angle with respect to the antenna, and possibly by environmental conditions.

Range – Programming:  The maximum distance between the antenna of a reader/interrogator and a transponder over which a programming function can be effectively performed. Usually shorter than the read range, but may be influenced by orientation and angle with respect to the antenna, and possibly by environmental conditions.

Read:  The process of retrieving data from a transponder and, as appropriate, the contention and error control management, and channel and source decoding required to recover and communicate the data entered at source.

Readability:  The ability to retrieve data under specified conditions.

Reader/Interrogator or Reader/Writer:  An electronic device for performing the process of retrieving data from a transponder and, as appropriate, the contention and error control management, and channel and source decoding required to recover and communicate the data entered at source. The device may also interface with an integral display and/or provide a parallel or serial communications interface to a host computer or industrial controller.

Read Only:  Term applied to a transponder in which the data is stored in an unchangeable manner and can therefore only be read.

Read Rate:  The maximum rate at which data can be communicated between transponder and reader/interrogator, usually expressed in bits per second (bps or bits.s-1).

Read/Write:  Applied to a radio frequency identification system, it is the ability to both read data from a transponder and to change data (write process) using a suitable programming device.
See Reader/Interrogator

Redundancy:  In information terms it is a term to describe the additional bits, such as those for error control or repeated data, over and above those required for transmitting the information message.

Reprogrammability:  The ability to change the data content of a transponder using a suitable programming device.

Resin Thermal Transfer: The process used to print sharp black text and crisp barcodes that can be read by both infra-red and visible-light barcode scanners. It is also the process used to print ultra-fast, economical one color cards. Like dye sublimation, this process uses a thermal printhead to transfer color from the ribbon roll to the card. The difference, however, is that solid dots of color are transferred in the form of a resin-based ink which fuses to the surface of the card when heated. This produces very durable, single-color images. 

Resolution: Dimension of the smallest element of an image that can be printed; usually stated in dots per inch (DPI). 

Reverse Transfer: (Retransfer) ID card printing technique where the card image is first printed onto a transparent re-transfer film, that is then stuck onto the card surface. Re-transfer printing provides high quality images and provides the ability to print on uneven card surfaces and/or differing materials. 

Reverse Transfer Film: (Re-transfer film) A reverse transfer ID card printer first transfers information to be printed onto the card to the underside of a clear ribbon (the initial dye transfer), then transfers the printed information from that ribbon onto the card in such a manner that the information on the card appears under a protective "release layer" of the clear ribbon (the re-transfer step). In other words, card images are transferred (or sublimated) from the YMCK dye film onto a clear film and then laminated entirely onto the card. 

RF Tag:  Alternative, short hand term for a transponder.

ROHS - Reduction of Hazardous Substances(RoHS), is a directive from the European Union (EU) that restricts the use of electrical and electronic equipment. The banned substance are lead (pb), cadmium (Cd), mercury (Hg), hexavalent chromium (Cr (VI)), polybrominated biphenyls (PBB's), and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE's).

RS232:  A common physical interface standard specified by the EIA for the interconnection of devices. The standard allows for a single device to be connected (point-to-point) at baud values up to 9600 bps, at distances up to 15 meters. More recent implementations of the standard may allow higher baud values and greater distances.

RS422:  A balanced interface standard similar to RS232, but using differential voltages across twisted pair cables. Exhibits greater noise immunity than RS232 and can be used to connect single or multiple devices to a master unit, at distances up to 3000 meters.

RS485:  An enhanced version of RS422, which permits multiple devices (typically 32) to be attached to a two wire BUS at distances of over one kilometer.

RSA - RSA (initials of Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir, and Leonard Adleman)is an algorithm used in public-key cryptography. It is the first algorithm which was adopted universally for signing as well as encryption. It can be used for encrypting messages and making digital signatures.


SAM - Secure Access Module (SAM) is an additional feature in a Smart Card Reader that can enhance the level of security in your Smart Card based application. Normally card authentication is implemented in PC or application level. However with the presence of a SAM, mutual authentication can be implemented between card and reader which means that the PC will not perform the authentication but it will be done via card to reader and reader to card authentication making your system more secure and less prone to hacking.

SAW (Surface Acoustic Wave) devices:  Devices using a transponder technology in which low power microwave signals are converted to ultrasonic waves by and on the surface of a piezoelectric crystal material forming the tag. Surface applied ‘finger’ transducers determine the form and data content of the reflected return signal.

Scrambling:  The rearrangement or transposition of data to enhance security of stored data or the effectiveness of error control schemes.

Scanner:  The combination of antenna, transmitter (or exciter), and receiver into a single unit is often referred to as a scanner. With the addition of electronics to perform the necessary decoding and management functions to deliver the source data, the unit becomes a reader.

Scratch Off Ribbon: A common application for scratch off ribbon is for pre-paid phone cards to 'hide' the PIN number that will activate the phone card until it is in the hands of the card owner. Prior to applying the scratch off ribbon, a monochrome or full color ribbon (scratch off ribbon can be applied on top of the overlay or 'O' panel of a YMCKO ribbon) must be used to print the data and graphics desired on the card. Then the monochrome or color ribbon must be replaced with the scratch off ribbon (the card layout must subsequently also be changed so that the scratch off material prints in the area desired) and the card resent through the printer. 

Screening:  The process of avoiding or minimizing electromagnetic interference by use of electromagnetic reflective and absorptive materials suitably structured or positioned to reduce interaction between the source of potential interference and the circuit being protected.

Self-Adhesive Laminate: A laminate that can be applied manually - without the use of a thermal laminator. Laminates in general can add an extra level of security and durability to a card. Refer to part number PSHoloLam to learn more about a specific type of self-adhesive laminate. 

Sensor:  An electronic device that senses a physical entity and delivers an electronic signal that can be used for control purposes.

Separation:  A term used to denote the operational distance between two transponders.

Signal to Noise (S/N):  The ratio of signal level to the level of noise present in a system, usually expressed in decibels.

Signal to Noise & Distortion (SINAD):  The ratio of combined signal, noise and distortion levels to the combined level of noise and distortion present in a system.

Signature Panel: An area on a card the allows the cardholder to write their signature.

SHA-1 SHA-1, published in 1995, is a hash algorithm designed by the NSA. The size of the output of this algorithm is 160 bits. In 2005, a theoretical method was published to find collisions in SHA-1 with effort smaller than that required for brute force on average (263 instead of 280 steps).

SIM - A subscriber identity module (a SIM Card) is a smart card technology used exclusively with GSM-based networks. It is a smart card that securely stores the key identifying a mobile phone service subscriber, as well as subscription information, preferences and text messages.

Single-sided (Simplex): Capable of printing on one side of a card. 

Sinusoidal carrier:  A fundamental waveform, characterized by a single frequency and wavelength, used to carry data or information by modulating some feature of the waveform.
See also Modulation.

Smart Card - A smart card is a device that includes an embedded integrated circuit chip (ICC) that can be either a secure microcontroller or equivalent intelligence with internal memory or a memory chip alone.

Smart card reader - A smart card reader is an electronic device that is capable of communicating with smart cards and a host. Supports both read and write data on the card.

SPE (Secure PIN Entry) - It is a part 10 of PC/SC 2.0 standard stated in “Interoperability specification for ICCs and Personal Computer Systems”. The Secure Pin Entry allows the user to enter the PIN from the card reader PIN PAD which the reader sends it directly to the card for authentication in order to eliminate the possibility of exposing the PIN. The PIN is neither stored on the pc nor pc/reader connection but remains in the card/reader.

Source Decoding:  The process of recovering the original or source data from a received source encoded bit stream.
Compare Source Encoding. See also Data Flow Model.

Source Encoding:  The process of operating upon original or source data to produce an encoded message for transmission.

Spectrum – electromagnetic:  The continuum of electromagnetic waves, distinguished by frequency components and bands that exhibit particular features or have been used for particular applications, including radio, microwave, ultraviolet, visual, infrared, X-rays and gamma rays.

Spectrum–signal:  Expression used to denote the make-up of a signal or waveform in terms of sinusoidal components of different frequency and phase relationship (spectral components).

Spectrum Mask:  The maximum power density of a transmission expressed as a function of frequency.

Spurious Emissions:  Usually denotes unwanted electromagnetic harmonics. Type Approval testing includes measurement of harmonic emissions arising from the reader, to ensure they are within specified limits.

Spread Spectrum:  Techniques for uniformly distributing or spreading the information content of a data carrying signal over a frequency range considerably larger than required for narrow band communication, allowing data to be recoverable under conditions of strong interference and noise.

SRD (Short range Device):  A tag that is used at short range (less than 100mm)

Strong Passwords (Wikipedia) - A strong password is sufficiently long, random, or otherwise producible only by the user who chose it, that successfully guessing it will require too long a time. The length of time deemed to be too long will vary with the attacker, the attacker's resources, the ease with which a password can be tried, and the value of the password to the attacker. A student's password might not be worth more than a few seconds of computer time, whilst a password controlling access to a large bank's electronic money transfer system might be worth many weeks of computer time.

Examples of stronger passwords include:

These passwords are longer and use combinations of lower and upper case letters, digits, and symbols. They are unlikely to be in any password cracking word list and are sufficiently long to make direct brute force search impractical in some systems. Note that some systems do not allow symbols like #, @ and ! in passwords and they may be hard to find on different keyboard layouts. In such cases, adding another letter or number or two may offer equivalent security.

Symmetric keys - In symmetric key cryptography the sender and the receiver shares a common key to encrypt and decrypt the message sent or received.

Synchronization:  The process of controlling the transmission of data using a separate or derived clocking signal. 

Synchronous transmission:  A method of data transmission that requires timing or clocking information in addition to data.


Tag:  Colloquial term for a transponder. Commonly used and the term preferred by AIM for general usage.

Template - A template is a unique digital representation of key minutiae points obtained by special computer software from the fingerprint image.

Thermal Printing: The process of creating an image on a plastic card using a heated printhead via a dye sublimation ID card printer. 

Thermal Printhead: An electronic device which uses heat to transfer a digitized image from a special ribbon to the flat surface of a plastic card. 

Thermal Transfer Overlaminate: A card overlaminate available in a 0.25 mil thickness that increases card security and durability; often used for moderate durability applications or when additional security (such as holographic images) are needed.   The Securion uses a thermal transfer overlaminate to enhance security of ID cards.

Tolerance:  The maximum permissible deviation of a system parameter value, caused by any system or environmental influence or impact. Usually expressed in parts per million (ppm). Tolerances are specified for a number of radio frequency parameters, including carrier frequencies, sub-carriers, bit clocks and symbol clocks.

Tokens A physical device that an authorized user of computer services is given to aid in authentication. Hardware tokens are often small enough to be carried in a pocket or purse. Some may store cryptographic keys, like a digital signature, or biometric data, like a fingerprint.

Topcoat: (Overcoat, overlay) The topcoat (T) panel of a ribbon is applied to printed cards and helps prevent images from some premature wear or UV fading. Topcoats are available as a panel on color and monochrome ribbons, or provided on a separate roll in clear or holographic styles. 

Transceiver:  A TRANSmitter/reCEIVER device used to both receive and transmit data.

Transmitter (Exciter):  An electronic device for launching an electromagnetic wave or delivering an electromagnetic field for the purpose of  transmitting or communicating energy or modulated data/information. Often considered separately from the antenna, as the means whereby the antenna is energized. In this respect it is also referred to as an exciter.

Transponder:  An electronic TRANSmitter/resPONDER, commonly referred to as a Tag. 

Triple-DES- Triple DES is a block cipher formed from the Data Encryption Standard (DES) cipher by using it three times.

Types of Fingerprint Readers There are several different types of fingerprint readers that are each designed for a different task with varying functionality and reliability.  They are generally divided into two segments - Optical and Capacitance which refers to the technology being used to capture the minutiae or pattern matching data and are either Touch Sensors or Swipe Sensors which refers to the method of obtaining the fingerprint data.

  • Passive capacitance - A passive capacitance sensor uses the principle outlined above to form an image of the fingerprint patterns on the dermal layer of skin. Each sensor pixel is used to measure the capacitance at that point of the array. The capacitance varies between the ridges and valleys of the fingerprint due to the fact that the volume between the dermal layer and sensing element in valleys contains an air gap. The dielectric constant of the epidermis and the area of the sensing element are known values. The measured capacitance values are then used to distinguish between fingerprint ridges and valleys.[6] (Wikipedia.org)

  • Active capacitance - Active capacitance sensors use a charging cycle to apply a voltage to the skin before measurement takes place. The application of voltage charges the effective capacitor. The electric field between the finger and sensor follows the pattern of the ridges in the dermal skin layer. On the discharge cycle, the voltage across the dermal layer and sensing element is compared against a reference voltage in order to calculate the capacitance. The distance values are then calculated mathematically, using the above equations, and used to form an image of the fingerprint.[7] Active capacitance sensors measure the ridge patterns of the dermal layer like the ultrasonic method. Again, this eliminates the need for clean, undamaged epidermal skin and a clean sensing surface.[8] (Wikipedia.org)

  • Live layer capacitance scanning - This method of scanning sends an RF current through the surface of the skin or Epithelial layers of dead skin cells to the live skin cell layer.   As we age, our skin becomes thinner, less resilient and the individually identifiable characteristics of our fingerprints become harder to read.  This fact makes elderly individuals more susceptible to False Rejection Rate based upon the sensors inability to get a good quality print.   In 1998, AuthenTec developed a unique semiconductor-based fingerprint reader that uses small RF signals to detect the fingerprint ridge and valley pattern.  The RF electronic imaging mechanism called (TruePrint technology ) works by reading the fingerprint pattern from the live, highly-conductive layer of skin that lies just beneath the skin's dry outer surface layer.  AuthenTec's TruePrint-based sensors are less affected by common skin surface conditions -- including dry, worn, calloused, dirty or oily skin -- that can impair the ability of other sensors to acquire accurate fingerprint images. That makes TruePrint sensor technology capable of acquiring everyone's fingerprint under virtually any condition.

  • Optical Scanner - Optical fingerprint imaging involves capturing a digital image of the print using visible light. This type of sensor is, in essence, a specialized digital camera. The top layer of the sensor, where the finger is placed, is known as the touch surface. Beneath this layer is a light-emitting phosphor layer which illuminates the surface of the finger. The light reflected from the finger passes through the phosphor layer to an array of solid state pixels (a charge coupled device) which captures a visual image of the fingerprint. A scratched or dirty touch surface can cause a bad image of the fingerprint. A disadvantage of this type of sensor is the fact that the imaging capabilities are affected by the quality of skin on the finger. For instance, a dirty or marked finger is difficult to image properly. Also, it is possible for an individual to erode the outer layer of skin on the fingertips to the point where the fingerprint is no longer visible. However, unlike capacitive sensors, this sensor technology is not susceptible to electrostatic discharge damage.[4](Wikipedia.org)

  • Swipe Sensors - This is a sensor whereby the finger is swiped over the sensor in one fluid motion.

  • Touch Sensors - This is a sensor whereby the finger is placed on the sensor in a static fashion.

TWAIN: Is an interface typically used between image processing software and a digital camera or scanner.


Ultraviolet Ink: (UV) A covert, visual security element on a card that allows invisible graphics to turn red only when viewed under ultraviolet light. 

Unitised active tag:  An active tag or transponder in which the batteries are replaceable or sealed within the device.

Uplink:  Term which defines the direction of communications as being from transponder to reader/interrogator.
Compare Downlink

Universal Serial Bus Interface: (USB) An input/output (I/O) bus capable of data transfer at 12 megabits (1.5 megabytes) used for connecting peripherals to a microprocessor. Typically, each device connected to a computer uses its own port. USB can connect up to 127 peripherals through a single port by daisy-chaining the peripherals together. USB devices may be hot plugged, which means that power does not have to be turned off to connect or disconnect a peripheral. ALL Evolis ID Card Printers support USB.

USB Token - A user identity credential that one can connect to a standard computer interface such as a USB jack; often used in addition to or instead of a password.


VCCI - Voluntary Control Council for Interference (VCCI) by Information Technology Equipment or VCCI is the Japanese body governing RF emissions (i.e. electromagnetic interference) standards.

Vector:  A quantitative component that exhibits magnitude, direction and sense.

Verification - Also known as one-to-one or 1:1 comparison. The verification procedure confirms whether the person in question is actually the person they claim to be. The person’s current biometric data are compared only with their own reference data. This authentication mode requires another unique identifier such as a User ID, PIN, or smart card. Verification is inherently faster and more secure than the identification method.

Visa DPA - Visa Dynamic Passcode Authentication (DPA) verifies the cardholder’s identity and physical presence of the payment card through a calculator-sized smart card reader. When the correct PIN for the card and a ‘challenge’ are entered the reader displays a unique one-time numeric response code that can be entered a web page or read a merchant over the phone. The response code is valid for that transaction only.

Visitor Management Software: Software used to register, badge and track visitors.


WEEE - The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE Directive) is the European Community that directs manufacturers for the disposal of waste electrical and electronic equipment.

WHQL - Windows Hardware Quality Labs (WHQL) is a Microsoft facility that tests and certifies third-party hardware and driver products for compatibility with Windows operating systems.

WSQ - The Wavelet Scalar Quantization algorithm (WSQ) is a compression algorithm used for gray-scale fingerprint images. It is based on wavelet theory and has become a standard for the exchange and storage of fingerprint images. WSQ was developed by the FBI, the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

This compression method is preferred over standard compression algorithms like JPEG because at the same compression ratios WSQ doesn't present the "blocking artifacts" and loss of fine-scale features that are not acceptable for identification in financial environments and criminal justice.

Wax Ribbon: Is more versatile than a standard ribbon on different card materials, including ABS and special varnished cards, as well as non-PVC card materials such as cardboards (e.g., paper cards). In contrast, the dyes in a normal ribbon are not able to adhere to the surfaces of paper cards. Refer to Evolis' Black WAX monochrome ribbons (part numbers R2219 and R2019) for more information. 

Webcam: A type of digital camera that is capable of downloading images to a computer for transmission over the Internet or other network. 

Write:  The process of transferring data to a transponder, the internal actions of storing the data, which may also encompass the reading of data to verify the data content.

Write Once Read Many (WORM):  Distinguishing a transponder that can be part or totally programmed once by the user, and thereafter only read.

Write Rate:  The rate at which data is transferred to a transponder and stored within the memory of the device and verified. The rate is usually expressed as the average number of bits or bytes per second over which the complete transfer is performed.



YMC: (Yellow, magenta, cyan) Yellow, magenta and cyan are the primary print colors for cards. The three colors are combined in varying degrees to make a full spectrum of colors.

YMCK: (Yellow, magenta, cyan, monochrome) Yellow, magenta and cyan are the primary print colors for cards. The three colors are combined in varying degrees to make a full spectrum of colors. Monochrome or 'K' is black resin panel.

YMCKK: (Yellow, magenta, cyan, monochrome, monochrome) Yellow, magenta and cyan are the primary print colors for cards. The three colors are combined in varying degrees to make a full spectrum of colors. Monochrome or 'K' are black resin panels - the latter 'K' is used for monochrome printing on the back side of a card.

YMCKT: (Yellow, magenta, cyan, monochrome, topcoat) Yellow, magenta and cyan are the primary print colors for cards. The three colors are combined in varying degrees to make a full spectrum of colors. Monochrome or 'K' is a black resin panel, and the topcoat panel provides the card with minimal protection against everyday use and environmental elements (e.g., UV rays).

YMCKO: (Yellow, magenta, cyan, monochrome, overcoat) Yellow, magenta and cyan are the primary print colors for cards. The three colors are combined in varying degrees to make a full spectrum of colors. Monochrome or 'K' is a black resin panel, and clear overlay or 'O' is a thin, protective layer.

YMCKOK: (Yellow, magenta, cyan, monochrome, overcoat, monochrome) Yellow, magenta and cyan are the primary print colors for cards. The three colors are combined in varying degrees to make a full spectrum of colors. Monochrome or 'K' is a black resin panel, and clear overlay or 'O' is a thin, protective layer. The latter 'K' is used for monochrome printing on the back side of a card.


Alignment: A term to express the orientation of a transponder relative to the reader/interrogator antenna. Alignment can influence the degree of coupling between transponder and reader, separation being a further influence.