What is the life cycle of a smart card?

Julien SIMON

The card issuer (Schlumberger, Gemplus, Oberthur Card Systems, etc) writes the runtime environment and sends it to the chip manufacturer. The chip manufacturer (Philips, ST Micro, Infineon, etc) burns the runtime environment into the ROM of the chips: this is called masking . Once the chips are ready, they are sent back to the card issuer, who glues a chip on each card and loads application data: this last step is called pre-personalization.

Once the cards have been pre-personalized, they are delivered to the application provider (Visa, American Express, etc). The application provider prints and embosses the cards. Then, they usually load their own applications (hence the term post-issuance loading) and their own application data: this step is called personalization.

Finally, the application provider sends the card to the cardholder, i.e. the end user, which will use the card until the card is destroyed, the service is terminated, etc.