Oracle tests find NFC lags in execution

Just wait a sec, or two

Oracle has been looking at NFC, and decided that the technology needs to be a good deal faster if it is going to have any hope of going mainstream.

In Oracle's tests it took two seconds to open and read the three files required by their proposed application. That time could be reduced by combining the data into a single file, but that presents problems if the data belongs to different people, and still produces an unacceptably long transaction time.

The tests, expounded by Oracle's retailing blog and picked up by NFC World, were a first look at potential problems. The tests quickly discovered that the transaction time that is so critical for customer acceptance is still the weakest point of the NFC ecosystem.

That's not because NFC is slow – the induction-powered radio communication is fast enough – the problem here is that the data must be stored in a secure element (often the phone's SIM), which is reliant on FLASH memory, an 8-bit processor, and an architecture built for reliability and security with little attention to speed.

London's Underground reckons that half a second is the absolute limit on transaction times for tap-and-go transactions, with 200 milliseconds being the target, but if Oracle's tests are anything to go by that's a far-off aspiration.

Oracle does suggest that storing a database key on the NFC tag might be quicker, shifting the responsibility for speed onto the back end database – an area in which Oracle will no doubt be able to help – but that would negate the enhanced security that NFC is supposed to offer, reducing it to a swipe-card replacement.

This speed issue becomes critical to the business model with a phone such as Google's Nexus S which supports two secure elements: one on the SIM and one embedded in the phone. Banks will have to decide if they wish to offer downloadable payment cards on the operator's SIM, or Google's phone, or both. The latter risks customer confusion, so the operators are confident the banks will come to them, but if Google's secure element (which is provided by NXP) can offer a faster tap time it might swing things in the search giant's favour. ®

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