HCE is Here to Stay

SIMalliance published a whitepaper last month entitled “Secure Element Deployment & Host Card Emulation”. It stated that, “SIMalliance contends that while HCE is good for the NFC ecosystem as a whole, the technology remains immature, unstandardized and, relative to SE-based deployment, vulnerable to malicious attack.”

In general, an evaluation becomes meaningful when context for it is set. I am glad to see the white paper set the following context: “Given HCE’s current and anticipated limitations, SIMalliance considered HCE to be best utilised in use cases where stringent security requirements, optimal transaction speeds and always- available functionality are not mandatory.”

Secure Element (SE) is a more mature and established technology supported by standards groups (ETSI, 3GPP, GlobPlatform and Java Card). Not only does it provide more security for NFC services, but also it has an established certification process. At the same time, SE embedded in SIM cards are controlled by the telecoms, and SE embedded in devices are controlled by device manufactures. They are not open to developers to use freely. Therefore SIMalliance recommends that, “MNOs should request OEMs to implement default NFC routing to the SE”.

So the questions are how many NFC apps need to have stringent security requirements, and how fast telecoms and device manufacturers can implement default NFC routing to the SE. Telecoms and device manufacturers want to make a profit by controlling SE access. That’s why Google is using HCE to implement Google Wallet thereby bypassing the control. I think HCE is here to stay until all stakeholders decide to work together in allowing NFC technology to develop to its full potential.