An important feature for memory card readers is the speed with which they can transmit data. Readers with USB 3.0 compatibility will be faster than USB 2.0 technology (as long as your computer has a USB 3.0 port). As mentioned earlier, there are various types of memory cards, so having a reader than can communicate with more than one interface will be beneficial, especially if you find yourself using multiple memory cards.
There are two types of smart cards: contact and contactless. Both have an embedded microprocessor and memory. The smart card differs from the proximity card in that the microchip in the proximity card has only one function: to provide the reader with the card's identification number. The processor on the smart card has an embedded operating system and can handle multiple applications such as a cash card, a pre-paid membership card, or an access control card.
Biometric templates may be stored in the memory of readers, limiting the number of users by the reader memory size (there are reader models that have been manufactured with a storage capacity of up to 50,000 templates). User templates may also be stored in the memory of the smart card, thereby removing all limits to the number of system users (finger-only identification is not possible with this technology), or a central server PC can act as the template host. For systems where a central server is employed, known as "server-based verification", readers first read the biometric data of the user and then forward it to the main computer for processing. Server-based systems support a large number of users but are dependent on the reliability of the central server, as well as communication lines.
The advantage of using barcode technology is that it is cheap and easy to generate the credential and it can easily be applied to cards or other items. However the same affordability and simplicity makes the technology susceptible to fraud, because fake barcodes can also be created cheaply and easily, for example by photocopying real ones. One attempt to reduce fraud is to print the barcode using carbon-based ink, and then cover the bar code with a dark red overlay. The barcode can then be read with an optical reader tuned to the infrared spectrum, but can not easily be copied by a copy machine. This does not address the ease with which barcode numbers can be generated from a computer using almost any printer.
A card reader is a data input device that reads data from a card-shaped storage medium. The first were punched card readers, which read the paper or cardboard punched cards that were used during the first several decades of the computer industry to store information and programs for computer systems. Modern card readers are electronic devices that can read plastic cards embedded with either a barcode, magnetic strip, computer chip or another storage medium.
Magnetic stripe technology, usually called mag-stripe, is so named because of the stripe of magnetic oxide tape that is laminated on a card. There are three tracks of data on the magnetic stripe. Typically the data on each of the tracks follows a specific encoding standard, but it is possible to encode any format on any track. A mag-stripe card is cheap compared to other card technologies and is easy to program. The magnetic stripe holds more data than a barcode can in the same space. While a mag-stripe is more difficult to generate than a bar code, the technology for reading and encoding data on a mag-stripe is widespread and easy to acquire. Magnetic stripe technology is also susceptible to misreads, card wear, and data corruption. These cards are also susceptible to some forms of skimming where external devices are placed over the reader to intercept the data read.