Apple Unlocks Another Piece of NFC – Enabling Read Operating Mode

There’s exciting news for the NFC ecosystem! The iPhone 7, 7+  as well as the Apple watch, will be christened with NFC tag readability when iOS 11 and Watch OS 4 releases in the fall of 2017. For those active in the ecosystem, it is evident why this turn of events is encouraging for unlocking NFC’s full potential in US markets. But if you’re wondering what the big deal is, here’s some background that will explain the enthusiasm.

For starters, Near Field Communication (NFC) is the short-range wireless connectivity technology that enables the Internet of Things. NFC tags are passive devices used to communicate with active NFC devices. They can be deployed on physical items, which makes for really cool interactions. NFC tags can be programmed and embedded in business cards, smart posters, stickers, wrist bands, clothing and promotional materials. They are extremely useful in the distribution of information and the promotion of products and services. They can also launch tasks, preform configurations, and initiate apps when being tapped by an NFC-enabled device. Unfortunately, the stunted growth of the NFC market has limited our access to the possibility IoT brings. That’s why this shift in Apple’s policy yields promise on the horizon.

Although iPhone 6 and 6+ have been NFC-enabled since 2014, the NFC capability of these devices has been intentionally limited by the company. Meaning that while all other NFC smart phones have been able to exchange data at a short distance as well as read and write information on NFC tags for years, the only NFC functionality accessible to Apple consumers up until this point has been Apple Pay, the company’s proprietary mobile payment application.

How much impact can one company’s adoption have? Let’s look at it this way: Apple shipped 231.5 million iPhones globally in 2015 and 216.4 million in 2016. This is a leading portion of the smart phone market. The impact of limited functionality from iPhone devices sent ripples across the NFC ecosystem. Conversely, Apple’s new inclusion of NFC tag readability in its 2017 updates will open up a new possibility for this technology with many use cases. I’m very excited to see what unfolds in the future.

Mobile Payment – A Trend to Watch in 2017

Note: This post was originally posted in LinkedIn in January 18th, 2017.

The days of fumbling through a wallet, pocketbook, or purse at the check stand are coming to an end. Research and Markets reported that the global mobile wallet market is expected to reach $635 billion by 2020 from $113.5 billion in 2015 at the compound annual growth rate (GAGR) of 41.1%. Allied Market Research predicts that the global mobile payments market will reach 3,388 billion by 2022, growing at the CAGR of 33.4%.

This climbing trend will continue as mobile becomes more and more a part of our lives. Are you taking advantage of your mobile phone’s payment capabilities for your retail purchases? Do you know how? I will summarize the basics of Near Field Communication (NFC) mobile wallet in this post since we have a few options in the US market right now.

A mobile wallet enables you to use your mobile phone for making payments. During the set-up of a mobile wallet app, your credit card information is entered and saved to your mobile wallet. All you need to do at the check stand is open the app on your phone, tap or hold it against the cashier card reader, and your payment will be processed with the selected credit card.

The underlying technology enabling tap to pay is NFC – a short-range wireless connectivity technology that makes use of interacting electromagnetic radio fields. An NFC mobile wallet is composed of a few components: a mobile application (app), payment options (credit cards), an authentication method for user identification, and an NFC chip for wireless transmission or Host Card Emulation (HCE) software structure for an app to emulate a card and talk to an NFC card reader directly.

Currently, there are a few mobile payment apps as follows:

Apple Pay is a NFC mobile wallet app provided by Apple launched in October 2014. It works with the iPhone 6, iPhone 6+, iPhone sequential releases, and even the iWatch. An NFC chip is embedded in the Apple devices to enable the Apple Pay tapping and paying.

Samsung Pay was released in August 2015. Not only does it work with NFC, Samsung phones are also equipped with Mobile Secure Transmission (MST) technology that emulates a swipe transaction through the swipe reader in case the reader is not NFC enabled, broadening the purchasing power of your mobile device. Samsung also plans to release Samsung Pay Mini in early 2017, which could also allow non-Galaxy devices to benefit from Samsung Pay. However this may exclude integration with Apple devices, as Apple store rejected Samsung Pay app in December 2016.

Android Pay, a Google Wallet, was released in September 2015. It works with all NFC-enabled Android devices running KitKat 4.4 and above. Android Pay uses Host Card Emulation (HCE) technology to interact with NFC payment terminals.

Microsoft Wallet is available in Microsoft insider. Windows 10 for phones support Host Card Emulation (HCE). HCE will allow any smartphone with Windows 10 and NFC hardware to transmit payments from the device to an NFC terminal designed to receive that money but without needing a special secure app like Softcard. It also won’t require any secure SIMs from wireless carriers.

In October 2015, US banks and processing networks implemented Fraud Lability Shift. Almost all credit card readers were replaced with EMV compliant readers. EMV (Europay, MasterCard and Visa) is a global standard for credit cards that uses computer chips to authenticate chip-card transactions. Most the EMV-compliant credit card readers (Point of Sale) are also NFC-enabled. This transition significantly expands the potential for widespread NFC mobile payment adoption.

In addition to this, more education and incentives are rolling out to encourage consumers to use mobile payment. For example, the number of daily Samsung Pay users has doubled every week since the launch of Samsung Rewards in the US in November 2016. Likewise, consumers are rewarded if they pay with Apple Pay at participating 300,000 self-serving cashless vending machine.

Will 2017 be the year that Mobile Wallets really take off? Will you be ready for this new era of purchasing?

Is NFC (Near Field Communication) Dead?

Editorial note: This article appeared in Linkedin on December 7th, 2016

I recently had coffee with a friend whom I hadn’t seen for a while. We chatted about our lives and work. He told me about the Internet of Thing (IOT) product he is marketing, and asked what I was up to. When I told him I was working on the 3rd edition of my “Everyday NFC” book, his next question astounded me: “Isn’t  NFC dead?” Surprised, I looked at him and reassured him it was not, and that I was committed to publishing my book soon. Part of my urgency in doing so is to correct such misunderstandings.

My friend is not alone in his assumption. Even in the technology field, many are clueless about NFC’s many applications in IoT and beyond. Not only is NFC alive, it is a widely used enabler that connects objects to  the Internet. IoT doesn’t exist without smart sensors. As Business Insider pointed out in their article entitled  21 technology tipping points we will reach by 2030 , “1 trillion sensors will be connected to the internet in 2022.” NFC will play a critical role in this process.

What is NFC? NFC is based on RFID technology. It is a technology that enables wireless data transfer in close proximity without the need for internet connection. NFC sensors can be integrated into devices and wearable in many fields. NFC Forum was established in 2004 and leads the effort for the unification of the NFC ecosystem. More than 140 companies are members of the NFC Forum.

NFC Forum has been promoting the relationship of NFC and IoT: “With 38.5 billion connected devices expected by 2020 and over one billion NFC-enabled devices already in the market, NFC is playing a key role in making the Internet of Things a working reality.”

Not only does NFC enable IoT, it plays an essential role in Industry 4.0 (Industry internet) to facilitate connectivity in smart factory manufacturing. The low cost of NFC tags can help identify items, tracking them, and even reflect on their conditions.  For example, the wine industry is using NFC tags to authenticate wine bottles in order to exercise brand protection.

The possibilities of NFC are endless; it is quite alive and thriving!

Three Things That Business Leaders Should Know About Industry 4.0

Editorial note: This article appeared in Forbes on November 1st, 2016

As a business leader, you can’t afford not to know about Industry 4.0 (defined by McKinsey as “the next phase in the digitization of the manufacturing sector”), which will transform manufacturing in a way that impacts profit margin significantly for your business.

While not many people understand or have even heard of the term outside of manufacturing, many business leaders have heard about IoT (Internet of Things). What will happen when IoT becomes fully integrated with other emerging technology, such as big data and autonomous robots? Can you imagine the impact on the world? That’s just one of the questions posed by this new phase.

There are three things that you should know about Industry 4.0: what it is, what the impact is, and what challenges it faces.

What Is Industry 4.0?

Industry 4.0 was an initiative started by the German government in 2006. It has also been called the “industry internet” or “the fourth industrial revolution.” The initiative’s intention is to digitize the manufacturing sector in order to increase productivity. German industry will have invested a total of €40 billion in Industry 4.0 by 2020.

The vision of Industry 4.0 has been adopted worldwide and is influencing other initiatives and cooperative efforts. In general, there are nine key technological components that make up the foundation of Industry 4.0: autonomous robots, big data, augmented reality (AR), additive manufacturing, cloud computing, cyber security, IoT, system integration, and simulation.

Through the interoperability of IoT, computation, networking, and physical processes are integrated as cyber-physical systems (CPS) that cooperate with each other and with human beings in real time. As a result, manufacturers are transforming into “smart factory operators” who manage highly automated, connected equipment, and analyze data provided by the systems.

What Is The Impact Of Industry 4.0?

• New business opportunities. These are created for many vertical markets, such as retail, medical, industrial, automotive and telecommunication industries. According to The Economist, many companies have initiated the effort to digitize factories, such as Siemens, BASF, Bosch, Daimler, Deutsche Telekom, Klöckner & Co., and Trumpf. The products they make are increasingly packed with sensors and connected to the internet in order to provide better products and services for their customers.

• A more efficient value chain: When the system is well integrated, equipment can be run by automated processes. The cost of manufacturing will be decreased and the quality will be better. The impact is on the whole value chain of delivering products to the market. When the value chain is impacted positively, the margin will be impacted accordingly and create a competitive advantage for a company.

• Data-driven strategy and business models: Sensors in CPS and cloud computing enable data collection and analysis in real time. Therefore, issues can be detected and resolved in a timely manner and the product lifecycle can be streamlined based on insights from big data analysis. Also, insights that reflect real-time operations are available for decision makers. Therefore, strategy and business models can be modified quickly to increase revenue.

• A rising need for skills-based training and talents: Specific skills are required to work in a smart factory. The skills will impact education choices and societal structure when traditional labor is being replaced.

Industry 4.0 Challenges:

• Reliability and stability: Since IoT standards are being established, it is a challenge to have a reliable and stable non-proprietary solution for machine to machine (M2M).

• Security: When objects are connected without sufficient security precautions, the system is vulnerable. For example, in 2015, Chrysler recalled 1.4 million vehicles after security researchers found that they could remotely disengage both the brakes and the transmission of a 2014 Jeep Cherokee. This is a challenge of IoT.

• Long-term commitment and development: It takes industry commitment to work on standards and protocols in order to have interoperable solutions developed. The financial investments might impact the effort of long-term development for some companies.

• Skilled labor: German demand for engineers outruns supply right now. This is an example when disruptive innovation happens, a skilled workforce will be difficult to locate.

Only time will tell how smoothly the transition into Industry 4.0 will be for the world of business as we know it. As business leaders, we can stay adaptable by staying aware, informed and prepared.


Is Proprietary IoT Lock-in Unavoidable?

Editorial note: This article appeared in Linkedin on August 1st, 2016

I attended the Wearable / IoT Techcon in July. There were many good speakers who presented to an eager audience. My learning at this event can be summed up with two points: 1. IoT is vulnerable and 2. IoT lacks standards.

IoT (Internet of Things) has become a buzz term in the last few years. IoT refers to a connected network of physical objects including devices, vehicles, buildings, appliances, electronics, and more. In the world of IoT, objects can exchange information, initiate activities, or activate processes. The connectivity provides convenience, integration, and intelligence.

However, this exciting IoT world is vulnerable. Not only can hackers take control of your connected car, but also your smart home system, your digital wallet, or even your pace maker! For example in 2015, Chrysler recalled 1.4 million vehicles after two security researchers demonstrated that they could remotely disengage the brakes and transmission of a 2014 Jeep Cherokee. Another example of wearable vulnerability was given by IBM speaker, Chris Poulin, that malware came from Fitbit’s Bluetooth infected your laptop though device synchronization. Such challenges are why IoT security was identified as the top one technology for 2017 & 2018 by Gartner.

Given the risks, one can see why security is a critical consideration in IoT and wearables. Chris recommended as a resource for eliminating IoT security risks and suggested the following strategic steps that businesses should take to mitigate threats:

  • Conduct an asset inventory
  • Update security policies to include IoT devices
  • Familiarize yourself with non IT connected devices

In addition to security, another fundamental problem is that IoT standards are being too slowly established. Many proprietary systems are in the market that will make interoperability difficult.

What is the current state of IoT standards? After researching on IoT standard bodies, Terry Hughes posted an article in April 2016  “Will industry muscle win in the IoT standards war?”. He concluded that, “There are many standards bodies, many competing initiatives, yet no universal IoT standards today,” and, “As we have seen in mobile, the race to standardization takes up to 20 years, and in the meantime IoT represents a huge market opportunity for technology companies to fill the standards vacuum.”

In my research, oneM2M seems to be the one standards body that is developing a comprehensive end to end IoT standards.  Many IoT products have their own protocols and APIs to connect smart devices and systems while standards are being formed. Given this environment, it would be shrewd for users and businesses to think twice about the price being paid with proprietary solutions.

My biggest question right now is “Is proprietary IoT solution lock-in unavoidable and what the impact it creates?” I would love to hear your thoughts.

Kubernetes – a New Way to Bridge Cloud Infrastructures

As more businesses begin using Cloud computing, the concern over “lock-in” is increasing. For example, if a business chooses to use Amazon Web Services (AWS), the chance is that it will stay with Amazon Cloud for a while, since moving to another Cloud is expensive. If your company is using Office 365, the chance is that you are locked in with the Windows Azure. Your company’s emails and documents are stored in the Microsoft Cloud. This is how Microsoft obtains additional enterprise market with its integrated solution.

A friend told me that if he moved his product from AWS to Azure, it would cost him over $200,000. I replied, “Maybe you should have looked into RightScale, but then you would end up with a dependency on RightScale”.  There are tools like RightScale addressing the lock-in issues, and ultimately you will be locked in with a specific technology or vendor with these tools.

Last week, I attended a Cloud Talk Meetup session. Aja Hammerly, a developer advocate from Google Cloud platform was elaborating on the power of Kubernetes. AppOrbit, a Silicon Valley based start-up, demonstrated their platform that used Kubernetes.  Kubernetes is an open source container orchestration tool. It builds an abstract layer that can be used on top of different Cloud infrastructures. This presents a promising approach to solving the lock-in concerns.

The Kubernetes project was started by Google in 2014 and is now maturing. It is a platform for automating deployment, scaling, and operations of application containers across clusters of hosts. According to Google, Kubernetes provides the following benefits:

  • Microservices: Having a cluster manager enables the management and scalability of smaller parts of an application.
  • Self healing: Auto-placement, auto start, auto-replication and auto-scaling can be performed in the face of failures.
  • Low friction horizontal scaling: Adding more capacity can be achieved easily.
  • High utilization and efficiency rates: Google was able to dramatically increase resource utilization and efficiency after moving to containers. Developers are able to focus more on the service they are building instead of on the underlying infrastructure.
  • Portable: It can be used on top of public, private, hybrid, and multi-cloud.

It seems to me that Kubernetes has the true potential to make Cloud infrastructure interoperable. The key is to design an agnostic data base so that portability can be achieved for various Cloud infrastructures. I invite your comments about this type of database design. What are your experiences with Kubernetes?

[This was originally posted on Linkedin on 6-5-2016]

Deep Learning

It’s a beautiful Friday night in Kirkland, WA. A Mandarin speaking meetup was hosted by the SeattleStartup on the subject of “Deep Learning” at 7:30pm. On my way there, I wondered who’s going to show up and why was Mandarin being used. By 7:40pm, to my surprise, there were 70+ young Chinese professionals in the room; a good number of Microsoft employees mixed with a good number of Amazon employees. summarizes Deep Learning as follows: “Deep learning is a new area of Machine Learning research, which has been introduced with the objective of moving Marching Learning closer to one of its original goals: Artificial Intelligence.

This meetup agenda was as follows:

  1. Dr. Dong Yu, a principle researcher at Microsoft Research, Deep Learning Talk
  2. Panel Discussion about the Deep Learning Application with two AI companies:
  • Kitt AI founder Xuchen Yao and Guoguo Chen. Kitt AI is backed Paul Allen’s AI2, Amazon Alexa Fund and Madrona Venture.
  • Orbeus CEO Yi Li and her team. Orbeus was an AI startup from Silicon Valley in Image Recognition. It was acquired by Amazon and the company has recently moved to Seattle.

Dr. Yu introduced the basic concept of Deep Learning and described the key models such as Deep Neural Networks, Convolutional Neural Networks and Long Short-term Memory Recurrent Networks. He also illustrated the core design principles of Deep Learning models when introducing other new models.

He explained that Deep Learning is feasible only with the computer power and big data available today. It’s actually a rebranding and extension of neural networks. Among the three Deep Learning definitions he gave, the shortest one was “Any system that involves more than one layer of nonlinear processing”

He stated that Deep Learning’s essentials are:

  • Learn complicated feature representation through many layers of nonlinear processing
  • Learn representation automatically and jointly with classification (or whatever) tasks (end-to-end optimization)
  • Key: design the model structure and training criterion.

One of the examples given was AlphaGo; a computer program developed by Google DeepMind in London to play a board game.

AlphaGo’s deep learning is as follows

  • Supervised learning on expert games
  • Reinforcement learning; improve through self-play
  • Build a strategy network and a value network
  • Monte Carlo Tree Search (MCTS) to determine moves through real-time play

Dr. Yu continued to explain Artificial General Intelligence (AGI)

  • The intelligence of a machine that could successfully perform any intellectual task that a human being can (Wikipedia)
  • An emerging field aiming at the building of “thinking machines”; i.e.: General purpose systems with intelligence comparable to that of the human mind (
  • The general-purpose mechanisms and learning principles that allow machines to explore the world, form connects and clusters, develop and validate theories, learn and generalize from a small number of examples and reason and plan with uncertainty.

The Panel Discussion was quite interesting. In order to learn these two startup’s journey and products, the audience was very actively asking questions and obtaining information. Since these are Chinese startups, it seems using native language Mandarin is a natural way to network and brain storm. That answered my question: why Mandarin.

Personally, I was very happy to have the opportunity to learn about Deep Learning and was impressed by the positive energy brought by these young professionals. I see entrepreneurship emerging among the corporate employees and that’s a good sign. My next blog will explain my perspective about the entrepreneurial culture in corporation. Stay tuned!

[This was originally posted on Linkedin on 5-3-16]

Wireless – A Vibrant and Growing Marketplace

Wireless is a vibrant world. I have been in this industry since 1992 and have never been bored with its rapid development.

My dad is 88 year old. Last year, I gave him my iPhone 4S so that we could do FaceTime. It has been a good experience which has made communication easier. Last month, his car was hit by another car. When I was notified, I rushed to the scene. He showed me the pictures he took with his phone. I was surprised that he remembered how to use the phone camera. Cell phones surely become a part of our everyday life.

My friend’s teen has ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). He lost 3 trumpets this school year, but he didn’t lose his cell phone. We joked about it as I recalled that none of my three kids ever lost their phones either. Apparently, they were all intimately attached to their cell phones.

CTIA posted an analytics report last week that revealed some interesting data:

  • In 2014, the wireless industry generated $194.8 billion of domestic economic value (excluding imports and exports) in the US, up 34% from 2011.
  • In 2014, the wireless industry generated $282.1 billion in US GDP, up 44% from 2011.
  • The overall annual wireless consumer surplus in the US today is $640.9 billion.

There are 7 distinct groups of players in the industry according to the report:

  • Manufacturers that create, engineer and manufacture the devices
  • Wireless operators that sell and deliver services to users
  •  Retailers and third-party dealers that brings products to the public
  • Ad agencies that market products and services
  • Suppliers of equipment and services that provide hardware and know how
  • App providers that create a variety of apps engineered just for mobile devices
  • The on-demand economy

The wireless industry accounts directly for more than 4.6 million jobs and an induced employment of more than 7.0 million using the multiplier effect.

If you are interested in investing in the industry, check out this report “The Wireless Industry: Revisiting Spectrum, The Essential Engine of US Economic growth”  and familiarize yourself with the capacity and impact of this industry. If you are in your MBA program, the value chain model covered in the report could be an interesting case study.

[This was originally posted on Linkedin on 4-15-16]

Keyword Trends – NFC vs IoT

** This blog was originally posted in LinkedIn on March 17th, 2016

In March 2015, I posted an article on the NFC Mobile Payment Trend in order to discuss the NFC Mobile Payment movement. Today, I did another trend analysis and want to share the data and insights.

It looks like “NFC/Near Field Communication” is still an interest and India is still the number one place that is interested in the technology. A search for “Mobile Payment” remains flat and the “Apply Pay” search went down after the initial launch in November 2014. To show the relative interest, I plugged in “IoT”. You can see that interest is picking up after 2015 but I am surprised to see the search trend is relatively low vs NFC.

India’s strong interest in NFC is not surprising. When you have a chance to read my post on “NFC In Action in an IoT World”, you would learn that NFC is making a huge difference in rural areas of India and saving children’s lives with the application of the Khushi baby (KB) necklace.

This insight encourages me to update my book, “Everyday NFC: Near Field Communication Explained”, to the 3rd edition since the interest remains high and NFC enables tons of connectivity in the IoT world. Please let me know if you have any NFC product or service to share with me and my readers.


A Smart Lock – NFC enabled Secure Access Control

** This blog was originally posted in the LinkedIn on March 1st, 2016

In February, I stayed at the Best Western Hotel twice; once in Vancouver BC and once in Denver. In BC, I noticed that I was given a chip card to unlock my hotel door by tapping the lock. In Denver, “ASSA ABLOY” was printed on my Best Western chip card so it became clear to me that Best Western has adopted the NFC technology from Assa Abloy.

Assa Abloy has been the leader for door opening solutions. The newer technology has been moving from using NFC chip smart cards to mobile keys; i.e. using your mobile phone to unlock the room with either Bluetooth or Near Field Communication (NFC) technology. NFC is a wireless protocol that transmits data within a 4 cm distance vs Bluetooth that transmits data within 32 ft.

Taiwan has deployed NFC chip cards for accessing buildings and homes. They are named “感應卡”i.e. “induction card” in direct translation but “proximity card” in real application. With Asia’s rapid adoption of NFC, this is not surprising to see a more wide usage of NFC locks and NFC chip cards replacing actual keys. It’s more environmental friendly and cost effective.

The disadvantage of using a proximity card is that it’s still another “thing” to carry around; even though it replaces keys. In order to use our phones to unlock the door lock, an infrastructure needs to be in place to sync the “key” in the phone and a door lock. That infrastructure can be simple or complex based on the applications. For hotels, the frequency of changing a mobile key will require a more sophisticated platform to be in place. A few companies are providing the solutions; for example: Assa Abloy, HID. This falls into NFC secure access control” category.

Today, the main block for deploying a mobile key is Apple’s lock on its NFC connectivity. Newer Apple mobile devices are all equipped with NFC but access is not open to public. You can enable NFC functionality from Settings on Windows or Android phones but not iPhones. Over 57 million of Apple devices (iPhones + iPad) were sold in Q4, 2015. Without Apple’s support, the future of mobile key will not be well positioned in the mass market.

Hopefully, this post has introduced you some new knowledge and provokes some innovative thoughts. Please share with us your thoughts.

Posted in NFC