What’s in the cards for 2021?

If we set aside the global health crisis, 2020 has seen the continuation of previous trends, making the secure transactions industry fare quite well... Will 2021 be radically different for our industry?

The expansion of 5G can only be seen as good news for our industry: having a single network that unifies all others is good news, as the promise of higher speeds and lower latency lets us envision the development of always more applications. 5G standards include provisions for a “flexible authentication framework”: while 5G handsets still include SIM cards, other 5G end points, such as IoT devices may not need them. The ongoing eSIM trend, started with 4G is to continue, with its repercussion on terms of global SIM volumes and its consequences in the way it overturns the SIM card value chain.

The Internet of Things is bound to keep on growing, but there is no certainty stakeholders will get a better understanding of security stakes and turn to the secure transactions industry to find solutions to their security shortcomings.


In the payment card segment, 2020 has seen an increase in online payments and in contactless payments. These two factors have contributed to a positive outcome in 2020: the switch to dual interface cards has been faster than anticipated and cards with a variable CVV2 (or CSC, Card Security Code) are becoming increasingly mainstream, as well as biometric payment cards. One can anticipate this trend to persist in 2021, even if, for the time being, these technology enhancements remain marginal: ABI Research considers around 2 billion payment cards are issued each year, while they anticipate the issuance of biometric payment cards to reach only 2.5 million in 2021. Moreover, we are all conscious that cards are not the only means of payment: the “Pays”, Apple Pay, Android Pay, Samsung Pay etc. are gaining ground, and in the long term these technology leaders will be ready to do without banks and plastic embodiment of their services.

Identity programs are still developing, but as international travels fell in 2020, the demand for ePassports fell accordingly. On the other hand, being part of the global move towards digitization of government services and evolution to a more formal and accessible service offer from governments, multiple ID programs are developing and are launched in all parts of the world. Typically, these ID programs include ID cards, resident cards, electronic driving licenses, etc. At the same time, the world is increasingly evolving towards mass-surveillance, and citizen will have to remain wary of technologies and legal evolutions to preserve their individual liberties.


In the mass transit segment, one can only notice the end of a transformation cycle: after years of slow moves, New York City and Paris, the last two major networks using magstripe, are finally switching to an all-smart card ticketing system. At the same time, many networks integrate open loop payments, i.e. accepting direct payments by debit or credit cards for public transportation, reducing the need for dedicated smart cards used as fare media. Also, public transport networks are increasingly accepting app-based payments, either from dedicated apps or from the “Pay” services, which also leads to a shrink in card needs

Globally, we see multiple ongoing projects and reasons to hope for future developments, the speed of which will be dependent on the global recovery process. At the same time, in each market segment, there are signals telling us there are now many alternative to smart cards. Leading smart card vendors have already understood this for years, and Thales, Idemia and G+D have already changed their positioning to the one of a global security provider. However, second tier and third tier smart card vendors will have harder times to evolve and adapt to the transformation of customer demand, from smart card to security functions running in other environments. Semiconductors and hardware-based security are not dead, they may just have to find a new place.




Photo credits: Sasha • Stories on Unsplash - Tumisu from Pixabay - Jordan Holiday from Pixabay - Moritz Knöringer on Unsplash

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