What is Contactless Technology?

“Contactless” refers to technology embedded in a personal device — typically a mobile phone, key fob, credit card, or access card — that transmits your data to another device from a distance of a few inches in order to complete a transaction.

Transactions involving data transfer have traditionally involved plastic cards with a magnetic stripe or some type of a bar code. And while these technologies remain commonly used, the migration to contactless is well underway, for a number of reasons:

  1. Contactless tends to be a more secure data transfer method. Classic credit cards often contain sensitive yet unencrypted data, stored in plain text in magnetic stripes that can be compromised by various skimming devices.
  2. Contactless technology can handle more data. Devices equipped for contactless transactions contain a small chip, which stores user data and has a vastly greater capacity than a traditional magnetic stripe.
  3. Contactless technology is far more versatile than the payment technology it replaces. Relying on a plastic card and magnetic stripe limit your transaction options, whereas contactless technology can be used to store data in a variety of different devices, from a plastic card to a mobile phone to just about any type of product.
  4. Contactless transactions are more convenient. We’re all accustomed to producing one card or another to make a purchase or access a restricted building or other area. But carrying all those cards around requires a wallet. And frankly, wallets are cumbersome and bulky. I long for the day when my mobile phone is the only device I need, containing everything I need to get anywhere and buy anything.

When your bank, employer, or local public transportation system rolls out contactless technology, embrace it. Before long, it will without a doubt be the preferred method for the majority of our daily transactions.

Robert Siciliano, personal security expert contributor to Just Ask Gemalto. Disclosures