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RIM gets thumbs up from Visa for pay-by-bonk security tech

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Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications

RIM is hoping its reputation for superior security will smooth its path into wallet management as it gains Visa approval for the TSM platform that it is pushing to network operators.

Everyone planning secure NFC apps needs a Trusted Service Management (TSM) platform, but the four big SIM providers already have approved TSM platforms. This means that RIM will face an uphill battle for acceptance, though it may have an old advantage in the form of legacy enterprise deployments and love from the BOFHs.

Approval from Visa saw RIM's share price jump 6 per cent, though as NFC Times points out, such approvals are normally awarded to TSMs to be used by banks rather than network operators, and that the four big players in SIM provision all have approved TSM platforms on the market. Nevertheless, RIM is offering to manage content across secure elements, and thus take advantage of what hooks it still has into enterprise customers.

NFC, the Near Field Communications standard which permits pay-by-bonk and a host of other short-range apps, requires a secure element as well as a short-range radio, and ownership of that secure element is still in dispute. Google puts one into its Nexus handsets, and uses it to host pay-by-bonk with Google Wallet, while network operators prefer to put the secure element into the SIM and rent out space to bank, voucher schemes and the like.

RIM has long been a supporter of NFC, building the tech into its phones and embedding a secure element into every handset (as well as supporting the SIM-based one owned by the network operator). RIM's TSM will manage content across both secure elements, as well as supporting other devices, and RIM could be ideally placed to take advantage of some of NFC's more interesting capabilities.

Bonk to synchronise, or pair up Bluetooth, is old news, but in two weeks RIM will be launching BB10 hardware and should be demonstrating how an NFC-equipped phone can be more than a bonkable audio player. RIM is already working with secure identity services firm HID Global to get BlackBerry handsets compatible with existing electronic locks so we'd expect to see entry systems demonstrated - there's no reason not to expect workstation-unlocking to also be NFC-based.

Not that the radio would be necessary; the secure element is more than capable of providing a challenge/response akin to a hardware token for remote logon, thus providing secure identification without additional hardware beyond the handset.

NFC has loads of potential, now that it is being built into devices by default, and RIM will be hoping that operators look in its direction when thinking about how to manage all those apps. ®

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