Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions, categorised into the following sections:

Getting started

I am interested in finding out more about a smart card scheme for my organisation. Where do I start?

Many of the questions typically asked are included in this FAQ, and other helpful resources may be found on the Useful Information page.

However if you would like to speak to someone you can contact Bracknell Forest Council on 01344 352000 and ask for the Smart Card Team. You can view how the Bracknell Forest e+ scheme works on the Bracknell Forest Council web site (opens in separate window).

I am looking for a way of piloting the use of smartcards but do not have a huge budget to play with

By taking out a licence and contract with Bracknell to use the SmartConnect software you, can set up a small scheme and expand it organically as resources allow.

Where would I start?

If you speak with the smart card team at Bracknell Forest Council they can arrange for someone to discuss your requirement and issue a Method Statement setting out how much it would cost to set up a scheme.

How much does a Method Statement cost?

There is no charge for issuing a Method Statement and no obligation. Bracknell is keen to assist others who are planning a scheme to learn from our experience.

The SmartConnect CMS

What is SmartConnect?

SmartConnect is a Card Management System (CMS). The CMS provides all of the services necessary to setup and manage a smartcards scheme, including acting as an enrolment database, issuing personalised cards for a range of applications based on any type of card.

The SmartConnect software was developed by local authorities for local authorities as part of the UK government’s National Smart Card Project. It is easily configurable and ideally suited to work with public and voluntary sector services.

What is a Card Management System?

A card management system (CMS) provides a range of functions that help customers manage their card schemes, including:

  • Enrolment and registration of new cardholders
  • Secure storage of all cardholder data
  • Linking with other services and systems by exchanging cardholder and transaction data
  • Keeping a record of all cards issued to each person
  • Sending card issuance requests to a card production bureau
  • Reporting of management information

Is SmartConnect just like any other CMS?

No. Unlike other CMS products, SmartConnect was designed from the ground up to fully meet the particular needs of local authorities and other public sector organisations wishing to use their card for multiple applications. This was achieved as part of the National Smart Card Project and was based on comprehensive input from a range of local authorities from the beginning, including input to the requirements and design, undertaking the development and testing, through to large scale pilots and actual implementation.

SmartConnect’s inherent multi-application support means that it can act as the central hub and pull together all of the services that a card links to, such as library, leisure and customer relationship management (CRM) systems. Transactions can be received from these systems, and updates can be sent to external systems in order to add or amend related records as necessary. SmartConnect also provides detailed management information and reports on all aspects of the card scheme, such as equalities, card transactions and service usage.

How does it work?

SmartConnect comprises a cardholder database application with a web-based interface. The system can be hosted either by the customer or on their behalf by SmartConnect at their secure hosting facilities. Access to the web interface is via the Internet; as well as being accessed by frontline staff and administrators, customers can choose to allow members of the public to access the website so they can order a replacement card or partially complete their enrolment online.

How secure is SmartConnect?

The system was designed to be secure from the outset and in particular to meet the security requirements of UK local authorities and public bodies such as compliance with all principles of the Data Protection Act. The system uses a broad range of controls to ensure the confidentiality, integrity and availability of all sensitive information, such as the use of encryption, strong password controls, and role based access control. System security has also been successfully validated by several external testing organisations, including a full system security audit conducted by Deloitte and Touche and an application penetration test by a CESG CHECK-certified Approved Scanning Vendor; in each case where recommendations for improvement were identified these have been incorporated into the product. Further details of system security can be provided on request.

Who owns SmartConnect?

SmartConnect was a product of the National Smart Card Project. The product is now under the custodianship of Bracknell Forest Council who support and develop it, and licence it to users.

Applications and customisation

Can the CMS be customised for my council?

SmartConnect was designed to be highly flexible and customisable and can be fully tailored to each individual customer’s requirements. The technical requirements and scheme rules will be agreed with the customer at the project outset and the agreed design will be implemented as part of the project.

Does SmartConnect interface to other systems?

Yes. SmartConnect can be configured to integrate with most third party applications, including legacy systems within the organisation and external systems. The list of systems which licence holders have integrated with their SmartConnect CMS includes:

  • Leisure management systems
  • Library management systems, including self-service terminals
  • Cashless catering
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
  • ITSO for DfT ENCTS concessionary passes
  • Parking
  • School rewards
  • Scheme website portals
  • Third-part card production bureaux
  • e-Purse for small scale payments
  • PASS Proof of Age
  • NHS Organ Donor registration

Can I use my council's Customer Relationship Management (CRM ) as a card management system?

In our experience the information collected in CRM systems would only be suitable for issuing cards initially and would not manage cards or hold an image of the cardholder. SmartConnect already interfaces to various CRM systems so can be used in conjunction with such systems

Hosting and maintenance

Can I host SmartConnect in house?

Yes. SmartConnect can be hosted and maintained by Bracknell (using the SmartCitizen secure hosting facilities) or in house by the customer for a reduced charge. For customer-hosted systems, SmartCitizen will still be responsible for maintaining the system and hence will require remote access to the relevant servers to do so.

Are there other hosting options?

Enhanced hosting is available from Bracknell for a slightly higher charge and includes maintenance, support and 24/7 generator back up in the event of power failure. A permanent test / training site is also included.

What about Service Levels?

Bracknell offers two service levels – Standard and Managed.

The Standard Service Level is suitable for maintaining system operational effectiveness and associated technical support and maintenance, based on customer being responsible for ongoing scheme management and administration.

The Managed Service Level includes all items in the Standard Service Level, plus the provision of a range of additional scheme management items including comprehensive monthly performance reports, card and materials stock management, representation and liaison at customer meetings, maintenance of scheme technical documentation and training materials, increased support for integration with partner systems, ad hoc configuration changes for website, ad hoc bureau system reconfiguration.

Adherence to the service levels by SmartCitizen is monitored by Bracknell on a quarterly basis. Detailed information on the service levels is available on request.

Cards and card production

What types of card will SmartConnect manage?

SmartConnect can be configured to support any standard card type, including contact and contactless smart cards, and dumb plastic cards with barcode or magnetic stripe.

How will I know which card I will need for my scheme?

SmartCitizen will advise on this once your requirements are understood. It may depend on a number of factors, such as which functions you would like the card to perform; some specific applications such as ENCTS concessionary bus passes dictate a certain type of card. It is possible to have mixed populations of card types within a single scheme if no single card type will suit all applications.

What is the cost of a blank card?

The cost of blank cards varies considerably depending on the type of card and the quantities ordered, plus a number of manufacturing considerations such as whether they will be pre-printed with custom artwork or need to include elements such as holograms. SmartCitizen can discuss this you and supply an estimate if necessary.

Can Bracknell supply blank cards?

No. Using the Bracknell Contract allows the provision of all implementation works and services for ongoing scheme management (such as card bureau services for the production of cards), but it does not include the actual supply of blank cards themselves. SmartCitizen are able to provide blank cards outside of the contract if required.

How can I find out about the costs of card printing and personalisation?

Print and personalisation (P&P) charges vary depending on a number of factors such as the type of card printing and encoding required, use of full colour or black and white, whether cards have been pre-printed on one or both faces, plus other things such as quantities and despatch requirements. SmartCitizen can discuss this you and supply an estimate if necessary.

What does the P&P charge cover?

The P&P charge covers things like secure card storage and insurance; personalised encoding and testing of the card chip; printing one or both faces of the card with cardholder details such as card number, cardholder name, photo, any logos or other artwork on the card; attaching the card to a carrier or presenter, and despatching the card via standard post.

Can I print and personalise my own cards in house?

Yes. SmartConnect can be configured to send card production data to in-house card printing equipment.


How do I get hold of SmartConnect?

For further information on getting hold of the SmartConnect product, please contact us.

Does the procurement involve a Framework Agreement?

No. Local authorities and other public bodies can contract directly with Bracknell using the 1970 Goods and Services Act. Bracknell has an OJEU-procured contract with SmartCitizen, a private software supplier, to deliver smartcard-related services on Bracknell's behalf. In this way, SmartConnect licence holders are able to receive specialist implementation and support services from SmartCitizen cheaply and easily via a direct contract with Bracknell.

What is the cost of a site licence?

There is an annual licence fee that is paid to Bracknell Forest which rises by 3% a year each April. The licence fee for 2015/2016 is £6,719 and Bracknell considers that this offers excellent value for money.

What do I get for the licence fee?

A single licence provides unlimited access to use the SmartConnect software across a scheme. Licence holders can contract directly with SmartCitizen for implementation services or can procure services via Bracknell, who then will arrange for SmartCitizen to provide the service under the SmartConnect Hosting and Maintenance contract.

Enhancements to the software are regularly made on behalf of individual customers and also as requested by the SmartConnect User Group. From time to time these will be released in a new version of the software; all licence holders receive are entitled to one upgrade per year free of charge, where such upgrades are available.

All full license holders are invited to attend the SmartConnect User Group, a forum for customers to exchange information and discuss future development of the software. The user group meets quarterly in London.

How many licence holders use SmartConnect?

At the time of writing there are 9 license holders, with more expected.


Where can I find out what the jargon and various acronyms mean?

Please refer to our glossary, which explains many of the terms commonly used in relation to smart cards and SmartConnect.

Is Internet access necessary to use SmartConnect?

The system is typically accessed via the Internet, meaning that information such as photographs can be collected and saved off line and loaded up to the system when a connection is next available. However, it would be possible to host the system within a customer’s ICT infrastructure and make it available just for staff as an intranet application.