Feeds

Bank of America retrofits BlackBerrys with NFC

Is that a battery, or a wireless payment wallet?

Business security measures using SSL

Bank of America is bringing pay-by-tap to the masses, or at least a small trial group of BlackBerry users, by using a removable card and a replacement battery.

That's significant as it means that the latest trials, spotted by Boy Genius Report (which has provided screen shots of the offer), will be using a secure element owned by Bank of America, embedded in a microSD card supplied and controlled by the bank.

Near Field Communications, the technology behind the forthcoming pay-by-tap deployments, has two components - the radio/induction antenna and the secure element. The radio element is increasingly being built into handsets, and the next generation of BlackBerrys will feature NFC radios, so the replacement battery is very much a stop-gap solution.

The secure element, on the other hand, is managed by a trusted provider who decides what applications are allowed to be installed. The network operators would dearly love to be that trusted provider, but the banks would also like to be involved, and the handset manufacturers want a stake too.

Google's Nexus S, for example, has an embedded secure module under Google's control (we understand, though Google isn't saying). The Nexus S also supports the Single Wire Protocol (SWP) which allows the network operator to put a secure element in the SIM. That's an approach that the ever-operator-friendly Nokia has embraced with the NFC-equipped C7, which relies entirely on the SWP for security.

Bank of America is using a microSD-based security, which bypasses both the network operator and the handset manufacturer, putting the power firmly in the hands of the bank. Bank of American can decide what payment applications can be installed in the virtual wallet (bank's own debit card, or MasterCard credit card, in this instance).

Tyfone, makers of similar microSD-based secure secure elements, is firmly of the opinion that customers will not accept a secure element under the control of a single bank, or network operator, which is why it's so interested in the microSD model. A removable microSD can be switched between handsets and between network operators, but if it's under the control of the issuing bank then that freedom is still limited.

The NFC business is still deciding what shape it should take, and the pie isn't big enough for everyone to take the slice they'd like. That makes early moves worth watching, and Bank of America's trials worth keeping an eye on while we all decide who we'd trust with the keys to our virtual wallet. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
Brit telcos warn Scots that voting Yes could lead to HEFTY bills
BT and Co: Independence vote likely to mean 'increased costs'
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
New 'Cosmos' browser surfs the net by TXT alone
No data plan? No WiFi? No worries ... except sluggish download speed
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Blockbuster book lays out the first 20 years of the Smartphone Wars
Symbian's David Wood bares all. Not for the faint hearted
Bonking with Apple has POUNDED mobe operators' wallets
... into submission. Weve squeals, ditches payment plans
This flashlight app requires: Your contacts list, identity, access to your camera...
Who us, dodgy? Vast majority of mobile apps fail privacy test
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.