Last week, two of my friends asked me “What is Mobile Wallet?”. I realized that I need to put aside my excitement over NFC-enabled iPhone6 and just explain the basics in plain English.
A mobile wallet enables you to use your mobile phone for making payments while shopping. Your credit card information is entered and saved in your mobile phone. To simplify the story, I will only focus on two NFC Mobile Wallets: Softcard and Apple Pay.
A mobile wallet is composed of a few components: a mobile application (app), payment options (credit cards), an authentication method for user identification, and an option for wireless transmission.
- Mobile app: You can download Softcard (formally ISIS Mobile Wallet) from the Google Play Store if you have an NFC-enabled Android phone. If you have an iPhone 6, iPhone 6 plus or iWatch, you can download Apple Pay app from the Apple Store on October 20th, 2014.
- Payment options: The mobile app allows you add credit card information into a mobile wallet.
- Authentication: Softcard requires you to enter a 4-digit pin upon payment. Apple Pay uses Touch ID, a finger print identity sensor.
- Wireless Transmission: NFC (Near Field Communication) is used for both Softcard and Apple Pay. Any NFC-enabled phones such as most of the Android phones and the iPhone 6, can tap an NFC-enabled reader to activate wireless communication between a mobile phone and a cash register that is NFC-enabled.
To Use Softcard (formally ISIS) Mobile Wallet on an Android Phone
- Make sure that the NFC functionality is enabled on the device.
- Ensure your device is equipped with the required Enhanced NFC SIM card with Secure Element.
- Download Softcard Mobile Wallet app from Google Play Store.
- Set up an access PIN.
- Add the method of payment.
- Use the NFC device to pay your bill at stores that have NFC readers.
- Open the Softcard Mobile Wallet app and enter your PIN.
- Select a payment card to use.
- Hold the back of your phone over the contactless symbol on the terminal at checkout.
To Use Apple Pay Mobile Wallet on an iPhone6
- If you don’t have Passbook setup, add the credit or debit card from your iTunes account to Passbook by simply entering the card security code.
- Add a new card, use your iSight camera to instantly capture your card information or simply type it in manually.
- The first card you add automatically becomes your default card.
- Download iOS 8.1
- Use iPhone to pay your bill at stores that have NFC readers
With NFC mobile wallet, you don’t need to carry your credit cards around anymore. It is a safer approach since every transaction has a unique transaction ID and it’s authenticated. Apple Pay seems providing a simpler user experience based on Apple’s website. “One touch to pay with Touch ID. Now paying in stores happens in one natural motion — there’s no need to open an app or even wake your display thanks to the innovative Near Field Communication antenna in iPhone 6. To pay, just hold your iPhone near the contactless reader with your finger on Touch ID. You don’t even have to look at the screen to know your payment information was successfully sent. A subtle vibration and beep lets you know.”
Another note about iPhone6 and iPhone6+, they are really more of an NFC-enabled mobile payment device rather than an NFC-enabled device. All other NFC functionalities besides Apple Pay, have been disabled by Apple.
See more details in my newly released book “Everyday NFC Second Edition”. http://amzn.to/O76fQY
September 9th was an exciting day for NFC enthusiasts and evangelists. Apple announced that iPhone6 would offer Apple Pay, a mobile payment functionality based on NFC (Near Field Communication). The NFC community praised the announcement with relief, “It’s about time.”
The NFC community had hoped that Apple would have adopted NFC for iPhone 5s/5c in 2013. Apple endorsed BLE(Bluetooth Low Energy) instead while continuing to obtain NFC patents. Without Apple’s adoption, NFC has been moving slowly due to the lack of consumer technology awareness. Apple has influenced consumer behavior with an appealing experience and an innovative implementation. I expect that Apple Pay would help consumers to become familiar with NFC.
Before the announcement, on September 8th, the NFC community had the following questions:
- Will iPhone6 be NFC-enabled? If it is, what NFC mode will be offered for public use?
- What type of mobile payment model will be deployed?
- Will an app development framework be offered?
- What will be the user experience?
Now, a day after the excitement, the NFC community has more questions:
- Is iPhone6 capable of reading NFC tags?
- Can the Softcard (formally ISIS) mobile wallet be used with the iPhone6? What’s the impact to the Softcard?
- Will the NFC feature be configured on/off in the Setting? What is the default setting?
- What is the Apple Pay infrastructure?
What are other questions/thoughts in you mind?
Yesterday (7/14/2014), the WSJ posted an article “The Password Is Finally Dying, Here’s Mine”. Mr. Christopher Mims revealed his twitter account’s password to his readers to make the point of “password is dying”. He wrote “Google is working on an as yet unnamed protocol that allows you to connect to your online accounts on any device by authenticating yourself with your smartphone.” He explained that using the device-based authentication was more secure than using a password.
Using a Smartphone for digital authentication is also a mechanism that is built into mobile wallet; for example ISIS Wallet uses Near Field Communication (NFC) SIM-based solution and Google wallet uses NFC Hosted Card Emulation (HCE) solution. So whatever Google is working on probably is also an NFC based solution.
In June, AT&T introduced NFC Connect that enables customers to use digital credentials on their mobile device. The system is being piloted at Tulane University in New Orleans and Quinnipiac University in Connecticut. Students use Samsung Galaxy S III, an Android smartphone and an NFC SIM to access buildings, meal purchases, laundry, copying and printing. This system requires a Trusted System Manager (TSM) to provision a user’s digital credential into SIM Secure Element (SE) over the air when one signed up the service.
It is likely that Google’s digital credential solution is not a SIM-based solution based on its development of Google Wallet. The cost for users could be lower since a provisioning TSM is not required. That’s my speculation.
In another note, in the AWS Summit NY last week (7/10/2014), Amazon announced Amazon Cognito, one of the new Amazon Mobile Services, as a fully managed user identity and data synchronization service. The goal of the service is to help users securely manage and synchronize app data across their mobile devices. It looks like the Mobile market is Amazon’s next move.
It will be interesting to watch the development of digital authentication with smart devices. What is your thought on this topic?
On December 5th, Apple deployed iBeacons (Bluetooth-powered stations) in 254 stores nationwide, creating a new shopping experience for its customers. When customers walk into Apple stores, their location can be detected by iBeacons which send location specific messages to iPhones or iPads.
To receive this service, customers need to have iOS7 on their devices and an app from the Apple Store with tracking permissions. Customers also need to have Bluetooth turned on since iBeacon transmitters use Bluetooth 4.0.
Bluetooth is a wireless connectivity technology that was invented in 1994. It consumes a lot of energy and drains cell phone batteries fast. Blue Low Energy (BLE) was introduced in 2006 and was merged into the Bluetooth core specification 4.0 in 2010. It consumes much less energy than the conventional Bluetooth. Apple deployed the technology recently with the new release of iOS7.
iOS7 enables iBeacon to communicate with iPhone and iPad through BLE. The successful deployment of iBeacon within 3 months of the iOS7 release demonstrates that vision can be realized when a plan is well thought out and executed. At the same time, iOS7 does seem to have a lot of problems and improvements need to be made.
In September 18th when Apple released iPhone 5S and 5C with BLE, the NFC ecosystem was anxious about the development since the large market share of Apple devices heavily impact technology adoption. The NFC ecosystem was hoping that Apple would adopt NFC and help to move the technology forward at a faster pace. Now, there are questions about whether NFC will ever be fully adopted since the iBeacon BLE technology was Apple’s choice.
Personally, I think BLE is a complimentary technology to NFC. The two do not have a mutually exclusive relationship. NFC is short range (4cm) wireless connectivity technology, and it can’t be tracked unless a tap happens. It works in different modes; active to active and active to passive. BLE can be tracked whenever you turn the Bluetooth on. It operates within 32 feet and it works in active to active mode. Both technologies can facilitate a more integrated consumer experience. For more details, please reference my book “Everyday NFC: Near Field Communication Explained”.
Seattle Technical Forum held its monthly meeting on November 13th. I was invited to speak on NFC (Near Field Communication). Most of the audience was not familiar with the technology. As an introduction, I did a demonstration by tapping an NFC-enabled phone to a tag pasted on my business card. The audience was surprised to see my Amazon author page show up on the phone as a result. This demonstrated how NFC tags can be used to distribute information.
In my 15 minute presentation, I explained basic NFC technology, shared some current NFC applications, compared QR code with NFC tag usage and shared my vision of NFC’s potential. Karl J. Weaver, another NFC presenter, explained NFC secure mode in detail and focused on the mobile payment landscape. His speech was uploaded to YouTube. Drawing on his working experience in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong for Gemalto over the last five years, he offered a lot of insights on NFC mobile wallet.
In the Q/A session, the majority of the questions asked were on NFC security. People were curious about the adoption rate of the ISIS mobile wallet and the compatibility between chipset Secure Element used in Europe vs. SIM-based Secure Element used in ISIS.
ISIS, launched today, is a joint venture of T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon. It’s an NFC mobile wallet implementation that allows NFC-enabled mobile phones to serve as a wallet. This is a link to AT&T’s announcement, which includes steps that need to be taken in order to enable NFC mobile wallet. NFC World also shows video clips on how to use ISIS.
Currently, ISIS only works with Android devices and there are limited merchants. Since telecoms haven’t promoted NFC-enabled phones despite their rapid release last year, it will be interesting to watch how consumers adopt ISIS.
It was a pleasure to present in the Seattle Technology Forum. Other speakers, Roy Leban (Why Mobile Doesn’t Matter), Arvind Krishnan (Negotiating the Mobile First Challenge) and Jeremy Foster (Mobile UX Paradigms) all had awesome presentations and invoked lively discussion with the audience.
If you purchase a song from iTunes, you decide to give it to your friend as a gift, Apple will provide a method to deliver the gift using Near Field Communication (NFC)!
Surprised? Apple doesn’t offer NFC, at least not yet.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published an Apple patent application on August 15th. The patent was titled “Media gifting devices and methods,” It specified how iOS device users purchase and consume digital content with the NFC transaction. See details here.
On September 6th, Apple filed for a European patent about devices with fingerprint scanner and NFC. See details posted by Patently Apple. The European patent application is derived from a U.S. patent application filed in September 5th and titled “Electronic Device with Shared near Field Communications and Sensor Structures”. It described a dual mode operation as follows “When operated in a sensor mode, the sensor circuitry may use the conductive structure to gather a fingerprint or other sensor data. When operated in near field communications mode, the near field communications circuitry can use the conductive structure to transmit and receive capacitively coupled or inductively coupled near field communications signals.” (see picture attached)
This is not the first time that Apple has filed for a patent based on NFC technology. What does this tell you about Apple and NFC? I expect that NFC will continue to expand with or without Apple’s participation. And Apple’s participation is very likely to surprise everyone.