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Updated: An introduction to MIFARE® cards in 2020

Mifare contactless access control card

Are you searching for more information on MIFARE cards?

With so many types available and the arrival of DESFire EV3, deciding which is best for you needs can be difficult. Here’s an in-depth look at the 2020 MIFARE range to help you out.

The best MIFARE card for you will depend on your security requirements, as well as the quantity and capacity for stored data you require.

To make it as easy as possible, we’ve put together this in-depth guide including all you need to know about the 2020 MIFARE range. But first, let’s start by explaining exactly what a MIFARE card is.

1. What are MIFARE® cards?

MIFARE is a contactless card technology that was introduced in 1994. It was primarily used for transport passes, but its technological capabilities quickly made it one of the most popular smart cards for storing data and providing access control.

All MIFARE cards comply with the ISO14443A industry-standard requirement and, like other contactless cards, use an internal antenna and chip that reacts once a card is within the magnetic field of a reader. All MIFARE® cards operate at a 13.56MHz frequency and are made by NXP Semiconductors – part of Phillips Electronics.

Below is a timeline showcasing how MIFARE cards and technology has revolutionized the way we live.

2. What are the key benefits of a MIFARE® card?

The beauty of MIFARE® technology is that it allows for multiple application uses that other cards do not. Benefits include:

  • Multiple application uses
  • Enhanced security encryption that is difficult to clone
  • The technology isn’t limited to cards and is available in key fobs and smartphone application form too.
  • The cards do not need to be inserted into a reader; they only need to be visible within the range of a card reader
  • A unique serial number is supplied for each individual MIFARE® product

3. What can MIFARE® cards be used for?

These benefits mean the uses of MIFARE® technology cards are practically endless. Uses include:

  • Automated fare collection system
  • Staff ID cards
  • Access Control Management
  • Contactless/Cashless payment
  • Parking payment
  • Campus/Student cards
  • Loyalty cards
  • Tourist cards
  • Transport ticketing
  • Event ticketing
  • Mobile ticketing
  • Library cards
  • Fuel cards
  • Hotel key cards
  • Taxi cards
  • Product Authentication
  • Production control
  • Car rental cards
  • Car fleet management
  • Fuel cards
  • Interactive lottery cards
  • Social Welfare cards
  • Waste Management

4. The MIFARE® family: What are the different types?

There are several distinct types of MIFARE technologies available, and we’re now going to run through the main ones to help you decide which one fits your needs best.

Mifare classic

MIFARE® Classic

Once a trailblazer in the industry, the MIFARE Classic card was developed for those looking for a multi-use technology card. Compliant with ISO/IEC 14443 and available with 1KB or 4KB of memory, these cards still offer an excellent entry-level option for those looking for ticketing, event entry, public transport payment systems.

However, it’s worth noting that developments in technology now mean it’s inadvisable to use MIFARE Classic cards to host sensitive data or access control. The main target applications for MIFARE Classic are:

  • Public transport payment systems
  • Electric toll collection
  • Event ticketing
  • Loyalty cards
  • Car parking
  • Legacy access control systems

MIFARE® DESFire EV2

MIFARE DESFire EV2 best serves those looking for a card that transmits data quickly and securely. Updated MIFARE DESFire EV2 IC actually encompasses more than 30 different applications, and to date, there are more than 10 billion cards and 260 million DESFire readers issued.

For those using older MIFARE Classic legacy products, it can be seen as a sensible and natural upgrade in terms of security and usability.

DESFire EV2 offers a high level of security and we consider it a fantastic product for access control solutions. The main target applications for MIFARE DESFire EV2 are:

  • Access control/Access management
  • On-site/Staff Identity cards
  • Campus/Student identity cards
  • Proof of identity

MIFARE® DESFire EV3

Launched in June 2020, the new MIFARE DESFire EV3 takes things to the next level and offers NFC compatibility and a focus on mobile credentials.

NFC-enabled smartphones and wearables such as wristbands are considered to be the future of access control and contactless payments by many thanks to their high levels of encryption and ability to protect against “relay” hacking attempts. Target applications of DESFire EV3 include:

  • Access management
  • Closed-loop micropayment
  • Student identification
  • Proof of identity
  • Mobile cloud payment services
  • Smartphone compatibility

The focus on smartphone compatibility also means they work with NXP’s MIFARE 2G0 cloud service. DESFire EV3 has been specifically engineered to work with other older EV2 and EV1 products for an easy transition when upgrading.

You can read more about this latest MIFARE product here, or check out NXP’d in-depth video above that explains the benefits and new capabilities in full.

MIFARE® Ultralight

MIFARE Ultralight is a card option with significantly less memory than the Classic and DESFire. It is designed as a low-cost, low-security card that can be produced quickly and efficiently.

That said, it includes an anti-counterfeit production system that minimises the risk of cloning. Their reduced cost makes them perfect for low-risk contactless solutions. The main target applications include:

  • Disposable ticketing
  • Sporting event entry
  • Exhibition entry
  • Public transport tickets
  • Loyalty cards

MIFARE® Plus EV2

The MIFARE Plus has been developed to bring benchmark security to all mainstream contactless card applications. A key benefit to the Plus is that it is the only mainstream IC compatible which offers an upgrade path for existing infrastructure and services.

There are several versions, but the latest iteration is MIFARE Plus EV2 which you can learn more about in the video above. The MIFARE Plus S is the standard version that allows for straight forward migration from MIFARE Classic systems. Key target applications for MIFARE Plus include:

  • Transport ticketing
  • Access control
  • Road tolling
  • Car parking

5. Additional MIFARE® options

Once you’ve decided which is the most suitable MIFARE option for you, there are several add-ons that you will need to consider too.

Memory

A card’s memory capacity is important because it will define the applications, you’ll be able to use the card for. Simply put, the greater the complexity of the end-product, the higher the storage capacity you will require. This is reflected in the DESFire range, where greater memory options are available.

Equally, cards such as the MIFARE Ultralight don’t have a lot of storage to start with because they are designed to be disposable; 4K of memory would be overkill for a single-use card.

Magnetic stripe

Although the MIFARE family is completely contactless by nature, both Classic and DESFire cards can be ordered with magstripe options. This can help you integrate your MIFARE cards with existing, older systems that still require a magnetic stripe reader to function.

3UP

For a combination of applications that don’t require the high security offered by DESFire, the Classic family can be ordered as a 3-in-1 fob-solution. This is a great option for low-risk access control, loyalty and cashless catering and a great alternative to traditional cards.

6. Ready to buy?

That’s the end of our post. We hope you have gathered the information you required to make the right purchase.

Don’t forget as official NXP MIFARE® partner’s we stock the complete range of MIFARE® Cards which can be seen by clicking the link below or to speak to a member of the team please call 0800 988 2095.

VIEW THE COMPLETE RANGE OF MIFARE CARDS

MIFARE is a registered trademark of NXP B.V. and is used under license