Wireless bundle to bring contactless payments to mobile devices

In another sign that "contactless" mobile payments may be on the verge of mainstream adoption, Inside Contactless has packaged its near-field communications silicon and firmware with a third-party security chip.

Smartphone or tablet manufacturers can embed the ready-to-use package, dubbed SecuRead, directly into their device, rather than relying on an external SIM card, and do so more easily than integrating separate components on their own. The integrated hardware and firmware will support short-range, high frequency wireless connections for payment, transit, ID and access applications, using the handset for all of these purposes.

Such uses are called contactless because a user holds the device near a NFC reader in a ticket kiosk, for example, to buy a train or subway pass.

Android will give NFC a boost, but challenges remain

The vendor, based in Aix-en-Provence, France, says SecuRead has been picked by a "leading mobile device manufacturer" to deploy NFC capabilities in a range of mobile devices due out in 2011. The customer was not identified.

NFC has been a technology exotic for years. It's been most widely used in specialized card systems, such as subway fare passes. But Inside's new package is one sign that it's becoming more mainstream. Google just announced that the next version of the Android mobile operating system, version 2.3, will support NFC for contactless payments.

AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile just announced a joint venture, dubbed Isis, to create a mobile payment network, enabling subscribers to make secure purchases at a point-of-sale with their phone instead of a credit card. The network will appear in a few key geographic markets in the next 18 months.

And there have been persistent rumors that Apple will support NFC with the release of "iPhone 5."

Inside's SecuRead brings together four elements. First is Inside's own existing MicroRead NFC controller to handle the short-range wireless communications. Second, the silicon runs Giesecke & Devrient's Java Card operating system, which complies with the international GlobalPlatform specification for secure payments and supports AES cryptography; and, third, incorporates Inside's Open NFC protocol stack, which runs on either an application or baseband processor. Open NFC is available for Android, Windows Mobile, Linux and Java. Inside offers a variety of NFC applets for such tasks as payment, loyalty programs, access control, all running on SecuRead.

The last element is Infineon Technologies security controller, which supports a battery of international security standards and features an optimized interface to the MicroRead controller. The Infineon chip stores code and data in 144KB of non-volatile memory.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.

Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnww

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Tags smartphonesGooglewirelessNetworkingPhonesconsumer electronicsmobile appsInside Contactless

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