Trying to search for a decent smart card reader seemed to be a much difficult task than i originally anticipated. Online shops from Hongkong and China are full of a range of both contact and contactless (rfid) card readers. Most of them however do not support the wide range of ISO standards (14443 A / B) and only work with a specific set of cards. Not to mention the trouble of proprietary buggy drivers (that too provided only for windows).
It came to me, however, as a pleasant surprise a few “open” projects which I would like to mention below and might be of interest to people doing any project in the related area.
OpenPCD: a free hardware design for Proximity Coupling Devices (PCD) based on 13.56MHz communication. This device is able to screen informations from Proximity Integrated Circuit Cards (PICC) conforming to vendor-independent standards such as ISO 14443, ISO 15693 as well as proprietary protocols such as Mifare Classic (specifically what I wanted). Contactless cards like these are for example used in the new electronic passports in European countries like Belgium.
The intention of the OpenPCD project is to offer the users full hardware control of the RFID signal and to provide different output signals for screening the communication. For instance, it is possible to program and replace the firmware with your own and a lot of good help and beginner tutorials are provided.
Cost around 119 Euros.
You will offcourse need a few cards (or RFID tags / chips) to test and develop. Cards and Tags come in different shapes and sizes and buying different categories of tags from one place is quite difficult and ordering a lot of tags from different places could be quite expensive (specially if you are a poor student like me). OpenPICC, Open Proximity Integrated Circuit Cards (PICC) is the counterpart to OpenPCD. It is a device that emulates 13.56MHz based RFID transponders / smartcards. OpenPICC can be used to e.g. simulate ISO 14443 or ISO 15693 transponders, such as those being used in biometric passports, Oyster Cards and Football tickets in UK.
Like OpenPCD, the hardware design and software are available under Free Licenses from here.
The biggest advantage of using a device like OpenPICC as a card / tag is that:
1. It is also equipped with a USB interface, so you can trace in realtime what the card reader is emitting.
2. Since Radio waves travel in open, you can also trace (sniff) the traffic between another card and reader which makes your research more powerful and stealthy.
Not to mention like the OpenPCD, OpenPICC is completely programmable with open source software and since all the design and ICs are public, you can replace them if they get damaged. In other card readers even a small damage would mean a complete replacement for your card reader.
Open Beacon: is a free design for an active RFID device which operates in the 2.4GHz ISM band. The device contains a unique serial number, but may have other information. OpenBeacon can be used as a transceiver device and therefore both transmits and receives radio waves. The project is to offer a wide range of use cases such as visitor or item tracking and wireless remote control with a free self-contained and low-cost RFID design.
Cost: around 85 Euros.
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