The Silicon Review
"Making sure your cards work worldwide first time, every time."
Card transactions of the pre-chip era, increased rapidly for bank issuers of the nineties and was driven by major brands such as VISA, MasterCard, Diners, and Amex. With greater electronic card acceptance and volume came an increased number of transaction failures which could not be simply the result of software or hardware terminal transaction issues. Card Testing International’s founder asked: could it be the quality of the electronic card itself and not the POS terminals or transactional software!
Genesis of Card Testing International
Card Testing International (CTI) was established in 1995 to dedicate a business unit to in-depth card fault finding and Major Card Scheme/Issuer Acceptance testing QA/QC. Australasia or more specifically, Australia and New Zealand is a world-renowned region for macro model testing of new “cutting edge” products which are positioned for acceptance in the rest of the world. This, for CTI was an excellent opportunity to observe closely the latest technology launches of the emerging card and PIN/ Chip authenticated ID technologies.
Card Manufacturers supplying major issuers at this time also recognized increasing amounts of card failure related to the use of magnetic cards for ATM and POS transactions. As a result, the experts in ISO standardization of “ID1 and Financial Cards” were engaged to help in further understanding “Why Cards Fail”.
CTI today has purpose built laboratories certified by VISA, Amex-Enabled, MC CQM (17025) and ISO/IEC accredited to the 17025 Quality Management system for over 50 separate tests - the most of any physical card test lab in the world! CTI’s vast collection of specialist calibrated test tools and trained analysts conduct over 160 types of standardized tests now reaching over 35 countries.
The Foremost International Study on “Why Cards Fail”
CTI’s sister company conducted a national study in New Zealand on card failure in 1993/94. This innovation was the first major study of its kind in the world. VISA and MasterCard conducted similar studies in the USA the following year.
The convenor (chairman) of ISO/IEC’s JTC1/SC17/WG1 standards group, Tom McGeary, presented CTI’s “Card Failure” study findings along with results from two regional similar scope studies conducted by VISA and MasterCard at the Cardtech/Securetech’s annual conference in 1994.
The statistical failure causation results closely correlated between all three studies. The major reason for card faults at that time was accidental erasure creating magnetic stripe errors, which created over 40% of field failures. The findings resulted in a Fast-Track standard approval of the use of High Coercivity (HiCo) Magnetic materials that would prove far more impervious materials to erasure. Within a few years, this development virtually eliminated the occurrence of reported failures.
Challenges on the Stairway to Success
By the early 2000s, thousands of microcircuit/chip card technologies had emerged and EMV standards were developing further. It was becoming commonplace to require issuer partnered testing for QC/QA. Prior to this manufacturers had typically self-certified their card deliveries to their bank issuers. However, chip cards rapidly skyrocketed the cost of card production, as well as the replacement cost of cards which failed before the end of the expiry service life. Self-certification was becoming no longer appropriate with card batches typically amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Many major card issuers were telling us they had never carried out acceptance testing before paying invoices - of course, this was before the quadruple cost increase for batches of cards.
The Company Stress on Trust and Respect
Card scheme certifications allow a test lab to perform testing and are often necessary, but how does a test lab gain trust and respect?
CTI has had close involvement with ISO/IEC standards development for almost 20 years, performing a multitude of roles including secretariat functions and writing two new test methods currently in the Draft International Standard. But there is one that stands tallest; CTO Steve DeDera was nominated and selected in 2018 as the Project Editor for the upcoming 3rd edition of ISO/IEC 10373-1, expected in Q1 2020. The appointment by both ISO/IEC and other card industry experts can only mean a level of trust and respect that comes with time.
Card test auditors are not usually a manufacturer’s favourite supplier of services, this can be understandable if a test lab finds a negative result on a manufacturers cards. Despite this, CTI regularly tests for manufacturers, but for the certainty and subsequent trust that the CTI accredited testing brings. ISO/IEC 17025 accredited tests use equipment calibrated with traceable reference material and their own cross-checking QA/QC processes to reconfirm the result. This provides trust and removes need for rechecking with a secondary lab.
CTI: Contributing to the Global IT platform and Society at Large
Testing all types of card and passport technology places CTI as one of the few companies supporting products at such a large consumer/society scale and breadth. Most of us now have several bank cards, ID’s, etc. in our wallets and hand bags. Literally, billions of critical tokens which must work to maintain a positive and consistent “Customer Experience”, and to participate in society’s day to day activities. CTI’s C-level staff have attended over 40 ISO/IEC card standard development meetings in person over 15 years, submitting over 50 contributions and authoring two new test methods for the upcoming 3rd edition of ISO/IEC 10373-1. The firm takes this part of the technical ecosystem seriously, and are immensely proud of its contributions to continuous product improvements.
The company’s see multiple channels for transaction and ID authentication such as biometrics, NFC phones, cryptocurrencies, physical currency, even checks, etc. CTI’s understanding of this complex landscape is invaluable because one technology will not dominate. At an early chip-card conference in 1989 CP Bull and Siemens declared that all magnetic stripe cards would be replaced by microcircuit (chip) cards in the next 3 to 4 years. However, nearly 30 years later magnetic stripe cards remain part of major schemes requirements for “international interoperability”. All the myriad of technology channels need the best care possible to maintain happy transacting customers. CTI recognizes that they are each valuable in sustaining a buoyant technological future.
Belaud the Brilliance
Ron DeDera, CEO and Founder: Ron DeDera is the CEO/Founder of Card Testing International (CTI). A science-focused, geophysical testing, electronics graduate from California State University. One of his first positions was working in an ANSI/ASTM/ISO accredited testing lab in California. Ron enhanced his experience in the ID management field working for 10 years with the Racal Group, culminating in his position as the APAC Regional Director for Racal Guardata (now Thales). Racal split the electronics group in the early 1990s, selling its start-up at that time Vodafone and the financial ID companies. Ron and Susie Dedera took over Racal Electronics interests in these areas and expanded the businesses under the companies CTI and MillenTech, which now have nearly 30 years specializing in QC/QA testing of card products.
CTI has more accredited card tests than any other lab in the world, allowing clients to engage a “one stop shop”.