Magnetic Stripe Readers: Innovation Surpassed

Magnetic stripe reader technology has changed the face of retail today. If we get down to note the technologies that have surpassed innovation and have made a mark for themselves in the tech-market, the magnetic stripe reader technology is going to top the list.

However, such a technology hasn’t evolved in a day. It has taken years to formulate into this giant system that runs the retail sector now.

Here is a brief look into this interesting technology and its impact on the market and the technological aspects in the recent years and into the future.

An Overview of the Magnetic Stripe Reader Technology

Magnetism, ever since its invention, has been a reason of great technological advancements. This principle has been a reason for many groundbreaking inventions that have helped mankind master the impossible when it comes to science and technology.

Magnetic stripe readers are the best of this technology and they have indeed changed trends in the market. One can find a great variety of magnetic recording media available around them today, thanks to the super advancement in magnetism technology.

The magnetic stripe readers for one thing, have made their presence felt in retail stores to applications for identification and access control making it the most applied technology and undoubtedly, the most sold as well. 

Shifting the attention to what the magnetic stripe readers have been doing in the retail industry and other markets, let’s have a look at the scenario from a different point of view considering several factors that affect the impact.

The Third Track and How it drives New Applications Today

Getting a better look at a ‘magnetic stripe’, it is that black line that is found in the back of the debit/ credit cards. This black line contains information that is well encoded and which can be read, but selectively.

Digging a little deeper, this stripe can contain one, two or even up to three stripes of encoded information. These three areas vary in terms of bits per inch which define their space and information stored. While reading these stripes, more precision is required on the part of the magnetic stripe reader to be able to read the higher rates of data bpi.

The first two tracks mostly have information on the essential details that are needed for the transaction procedure, for example, a person’s name, their account number etc. The third track contains more selective information that is personal.

This can be the card holder’s zip code and other demographic information. This third track of information is necessary when it comes to tracking where their customers reside. This third track has been used to enhance the types of card applications (magnetic).

One big disadvantage of magnetic stripes is that these do not facilitate random access, which means that these are very much slow even though writing and data usage is economic and is easily available for everyone and the cards can be edited manually as well.

It is interesting to note that most magnetic stripe readers that are manufactured these days are capable of reading two tracks of information. And this is why the retailers who have older magnetic stripe readers may feel the need to either upgrade or replace altogether the magnetic stripe reader so they can read the third line as well that holds classified information about the card holder.

An ideal magnetic stripe reader should last for about 300,000 passes. Another important observation has been made that the price of the triple-track readers has decreased by fifty percent in the last four years making it a more affordable option for retailers with two-track magnetic stripe readers.

How High Coercivity Cards can actually increase the Security

Since the magnetic cards are made using magnetic materials that are highly coercive in nature, it is very much difficult to duplicate/ erase the data from the magnetic stripe.

This is a great way to extend the life of the magnetic stripe as well as increase the security of the data on the card. These cards are less prone to being destroyed during regular use.

The only circumstances these cards are prone to permanent damage are fire and the accidental erasure which can occur due to exposure to any other magnetic material. Second, the issue with the magnetic stripe readers is that while reading the card, the card reader must meet the ‘magnetic line’ of the card with the right precision and direct tension.

The reading heads of the magnetic stripe reader are usually impregnated with diamond dust; which prevents the card from any kind of damage or wear and tear despite using several times.

Some damages caused by wear and tear are the increase in the swipe gap, which is easily avoided by using diamond dust. The magnetic stripe readers are capable of reading both Hi C and the Low C cards, so the VARs need not upgrade the magnetic stripe readers to include these changes for better performance.

The Evolution of a New Category of Magnetic Stripe Readers

Nowadays, a type of ‘hybrid’ magnetic stripe readers have been developed which are capable of reading magnetic stripes as well as other types of cards, ‘smart cards’ for instance, can be read by these new ‘hybrid’ magnetic stripe readers. These magnetic stripe readers are cost-effective, easy to use and secure.

So no doubt, these are going to be around for a long time unless there is a much more viable option. Since the cards can be edited manually, that is the cutting and splicing is easy, these are easy to manufacture as well along with being cost-effective.

It is possible that the magnetic stripe readers will be used alongside another technology that will be an equally good option.

Nevertheless, magnetic stripe readers have more advantages in terms of usage and technology than disadvantages. And what truly sets it apart as compared to other probable technologies that pose a threat to replace it is its impeccable security system. Since security is a major factor in this stream, it is unlikely that the magnetic stripe readers will be replaced any time soon.

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