A digital card, virtual card or cloud card is an online hosted, digital virtual representation of any plastic card or a generic identification method in IdM (Identity Management). A digital card, unlike a plastic card, doesn't require any physical representation in the first place as it is fully virtual and hosted online.
In 1960 IBM used the magnetic tape to develop a reliable way of securing magnetic stripes to plastic cards, the most common identification and payment method to date. As technological progress emerged in the form of highly capable and always carried smartphones, handhelds and smartwatches, the term "digital card" was introduced.
On May 26, 2011 Google released its own version of a cloud hosted Google Wallet which contains digital cards - cards that can be created online without having to have a plastic card in first place, although all of its merchants currently issue both plastic and digital cards.
Digital cards are usually stored on a smartphone or a smartwatch. Therefore, informational data from the card's issuer can be transmitted (via Internet) and displayed, such as discounts, news updates, store locations, coupons, etc.
Identification with a digital card is usually done in several ways:
- Displaying a QR code on the customer's smartphone to the identifying host (a cashier i.e.)
- Engaging an NFC protocol connection by placing the smartphone near the NFC Reader (using host card emulation method).
- Using IoB (Identification over Bluetooth, an obsolete method which is rarely used) or PoB (Payment over Bluetooth).
There are several virtual card issuing companies located in different geographical regions, such as DiviPay in Australia, Privacy in the United States, and Entropay in the United Kingdom.
- cf. smart card