A Chip-Card Reader that Outputs Text

I’ve mentioned our Augusta (see photo) in previous posts, and I’ve mentioned that Augusta with Quick Chip and M/Chip Fast is patent-pending. But why? Why is it patent-pending? What the heck is patentable about it? Isn’t Quick Chip in the public domain? (Yes, actually. Visa considered patenting it, but decided not to.) What is there about Augusta with Quick Chip and M/Chip Fast that’s so darned innovative, anyway?

Short answer: The Big Innovation here is that Augusta is the only chip-card reader on the market that can do EMV entirely in keyboard mode. Which means it can be adapted for use in browser apps: that is, virtual terminal apps that slurp character data from a reader.

It means you can talk to a chip card — and get ordinary ASCII data back.

That’s a Very Big Deal.

It’s not hard to find magstripe readers that operate entirely in keyboard mode. You know the kind of readers I’m talking about: the kind where you plug the unit into a laptop or tablet, swipe a card, and then track data magically appears onscreen wherever the cursor is. That’s keyboard mode. It works because the card reader is a serial device tricks the host computer into thinking the device is actually a keyboard!

But a chip card reader is a different story.

Most chip card readers require special software to operate, because the host application needs to talk to the chip on the card (right? that’s the whole point!), but the chip only speaks binary. In fact, the conversation between the host app and the chip is pretty low-level bitsy-bytesy stuff, involving cryptograms and special handshakes and event notifications (and other things) that keep the host computer tied up in knots for ten, twenty seconds before you’re prompted to “please remove your card.”

Until Augusta came along, talking to a chip card was pretty heavy-duty stuff requiring extraordinarily intricate, computation-intensive software on the host computer (or on the electronic cash register). With Augusta, no special software is required to get data out of the card. After you dip a card, the reader outputs ASCII keystroke data (on its own, without programmer intervention); data of a kind that can be consumed by any app that expects to see text. You can literally open Notepad on a Windows computer, plug Augusta into a USB port, dip a card, and watch chip-card data appear in Notepad, as text. This is what sets Augusta apart. This is what’s patentable. This is what you won’t find anywhere else on the market.

What does the data look like? Well, as you may (or may not) know, EMV transactions result in TLV data. TLV means Tag, Length, Value. It’s a way of representing data in easy-to-parse form. So for example, one of the TLVs you get back from Augusta after dipping your card may look like 5F 24 03 18 01 31. The “5F24” part is the Tag. This is an EMVCo-defined standard industry tag for Expiration Date. The ’03’ after the tag is the Length: We have three bytes of data. The data bytes are 18 01 31. This means the card expiration date (YY-MM-DD) is January 31, 2018.

With Augusta, an EMV transaction results in a text stream containing TLV data. The exact data will (obviously) depend on the circumstances, but in most cases you’ll get back something like 40 TLVs, including all the stuff you need for a receipt (such as masked track data, in tag DFEF5D; expire data in tag 5F24; cardholder name, in tag 5F20; and so on) plus encrypted PAN (tag 5A), cryptogram information data (9F27), and lots more. An actual data block looks like this (with spaces inserted between byte values, for clarity); notice tags are in blue, lengths in orange, data in brown.

DF EE 25 02 00 02 DF EE 26 02 20 00 DF EE 12 0A 62 99 49 00 00 00 00 00 00 63 DF EF 5D 10 51 28 CC CC CC CC 28 77 D1 80 16 22 CC CC CC CC 57 18 03 8C CC 33 FB 1D 32 99 5F B6 F8 65 EA FE 54 69 90 55 A6 BC 18 A2 0D 50 DF EF 5B 08 51 28 CC CC CC CC 28 77 5A 10 44 B6 48 D3 53 D0 4B E1 DB DB B7 56 5D 4F D0 21 5F 20 1A 2F 43 48 49 50 20 54 45 53 54 20 43 41 52 44 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 5F 24 03 18 01 31 5F 25 03 15 01 01 5F 28 02 08 40 5F 2A 02 08 40 5F 2D 02 65 6E 5F 34 01 00 5F 57 01 00 50 10 44 65 62 69 74 20 4D 61 73 74 65 72 43 61 72 64 4F 07 A0 00 00 00 04 10 10 82 02 39 00 84 07 A0 00 00 00 04 10 10 8C 21 9F 02 06 9F 03 06 9F 1A 02 95 05 5F 2A 02 9A 03 9C 01 9F 37 04 9F 35 01 9F 45 02 9F 4C 08 9F 34 03 8D 0C 91 0A 8A 02 95 05 9F 37 04 9F 4C 08 8E 12 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 42 03 44 03 41 03 1E 03 1F 03 9C 01 00 9F 02 06 00 00 00 00 00 00 9F 03 06 00 00 00 00 00 00 9F 10 12 01 10 20 00 05 62 04 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 FF 9F 13 00 9F 20 00 9F 26 08 D2 EC AA C1 36 04 A7 22 9F 27 01 00 9F 34 03 1E 03 00 9F 36 02 01 A9 9F 37 04 9A 4D 21 88 9F 38 00 9F 39 01 07 9F 4D 00 9F 4F 00 95 05 04 00 00 00 00 9B 02 E8 00 8A 02 5A 33 99 00 9F 5B 00

Your virtual terminal app will filter this data as appropriate, display some of it on the screen, and send the rest to the gateway or back end for processing.

With most chip-card readers, developers have to go to a lot of trouble to obtain exactly the TLVs they need, at exactly the right points in the transaction, but with Augusta, all the data you need is there, in one character stream, all at once; you can slurp it into a web page with ordinary JavaScript keypress event handlers. Then process as you wish. You don’t have to open a USB connection with the reader (it’s a driverless reader!); you don’t have to issue firmware commands; you don’t have to orchestrate complex interactions with the card. Augusta’s certified L2 Common Kernel handles all the hard stuff for you, then hands you the data, all at once, at the end: This is what Quick Chip and M/Chip Fast allows you to do. It’s a style of EMV interaction that takes no work on the developer’s part. (Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. It takes a little work. But nothing like regular EMV!)

For the merchant, it’s a dream come true, because you just plug Augusta in, fire up the web browser, and you’re ready to rumble. No special software installation needed.

So if you’re a payment app developer, system integrator, ISV, or virtual-terminal wonk who needs to get EMV up and running quickly, there is literally no better, easier way to get started than with the patent-pending Augusta from ID TECH. It’s the easy way to do EMV — with a keyboard device that doesn’t demand any special handshakes.

Want to find out more? We’ve got all the wonky details in our white paper, which is free for immediate downloading (no registration required) right here. Or call us at the following number and request a demo unit:


Naturally, Augusta supports your choice of AES or TDES encryption (or no encryption!), or FPE, with DUKPT key management. There’s even an SRED version, if you want it. And be sure to check out our short video! Also check out all of the downloadable Augusta resources on our Knowledge Base.

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