Feeds

Bank of America retrofits BlackBerrys with NFC

Is that a battery, or a wireless payment wallet?

Boost IT visibility and business value

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. ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
UK fuzz want PINCODES on ALL mobile phones
Met Police calls for mandatory passwords on all new mobes
Canadian ISP Shaw falls over with 'routing' sickness
How sure are you of cloud computing now?
Don't call it throttling: Ericsson 'priority' tech gives users their own slice of spectrum
Actually it's a nifty trick - at least you'll pay for what you get
Three floats Jolla in Hong Kong: Says Sailfish is '3rd option'
Network throws hat into ring with Linux-powered handsets
Fifteen zero days found in hacker router comp romp
Four routers rooted in SOHOpelessly Broken challenge
New Sprint CEO says he will lower axe on staff – but prices come first
'Very disruptive' new rates to be revealed next week
US TV stations bowl sueball directly at FCC's spectrum mega-sale
Broadcasters upset about coverage and cost as they shift up and down the dials
Trans-Pacific: Google spaffs cash on FAST undersea packet-flinging
One of 6 backers for new 60 Tbps cable to hook US to Japan
Tech city types developing 'Google Glass for the blind' app
An app and service where other people 'see' for you
UK mobile coverage is BETTER than EVER, networks tell Ofcom
Regulator swallows this line and parrots it back out at us. What are they playing at?
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.