Evidence is growing that Apple plans to embed NFC into the next iPhone, but can Steve Jobs sell the technology that no one else seems to want? For the last few months there have been rumours that Cupertino has been showing renewed interest in Near Field Communications. This is backed by an Apple patent from two years ago, which …
Isn't that the same sort of thing used every day by millions of Japanese people? They go to the station, wave their phone and they have a ticket, wave it at a vending machine and they have a drink. Using a mobile as a cashcard is old news, and lets face it, compared to Japanese mobiles the iPhone is several generations behind technology wise, the only advantage the iPhone has over Japanese phones is the UI, which may not even be an advantage (can't even put in cute little emoticons into messages)
Operators ARE interested...
From the article:
"Network operators aren't interested in retail opportunities or mass-transit, but Apple is."
Actually, operators ARE very interested in retail opportunities, especially when used in conjunction with mass-transit (perfect time for a mobile function is during the commute!). They just haven't been able to find a redemption/loyalty/payment mechanism that is cost-effective and ubiquitous. NFC, especially sponsored by Apple and Nokia, would finally break that open, and then believe me mobile operators will be all over it to monetize it - unless Apple finds a way to take the lion's share, as it has with iTunes on their networks already.
I expect this to be a ferocious fight that goes on well out of the public eye, but will have deep implications over who ends up with a whole lot of consumer's behavioral and financial data...
My mate did this 5 years ago
He cut up his Oyster card and put the chip between the battery and the case of his phone. It works really well but is so freaking simple why all this babble?
Apple do take risks
Apple have regularly tried to push out technologies that others don't accept. FireWire was a big technology push, so was going big on USB, so was AirPort.
...and for the pedants
Yeah he didn't have an RFID reader, but give me a good reason for building it in and I'll tell you how that is easier with bluetooth/infrared. :)
Looks as though I'll be crossing iPhone off my list :(
Big in Japan
the article doesn't mention the real reason for Apple to implement this technology - Japan. RFID technology is already being used in phones there for transit and e-money (Mobile FeliCa / Suica / ICOCA etc), and its lack has been cited as a barrier to iPhone uptake.
one more thing
There's one crucial element missing from this proposition (imho), and that would be biometric reader on the device itself. No one is going to want to enter a pin number before entering the tube or bus, not to mention the fact that someone could probably spy as you try to tap in your pin number as you've got both hands filled and queued up at Tesco's. They should put a fingerprint reader behind the screen and include it in the API so that other apps can make use of it as well. Try to get on the bus? Your screen detects the gateway and BOOM! the screen lights up, you press down your thumb and hey presto, you're good to go. Or maybe they could include a vein scanner (or vain scanner, but that would be pointless because owning an iPhone is already a sign of vanity) on the back of the device. Simply holding it in your hand would authorise the user, and all he or she would have to do is "slide to accept" the fee.
The thing that surprises me is that only one other company, namely Google, has caught on to the idea that what sets the iPhone apart is that it is trying to become a new platform. Imagine a world where, not too long from now, if you don't own a device from company A or G, you won't be able to participate in the modern world. I love my iPhone, and I would choose Apple over Microsoft any day, but handing too much power to any one company (not forgetting Google here) will come back to bite us in the dangly bits one day.
At last a method to...
At last a method to detect another nearby iPhone in order to correctly deduce when to apply either a swoosh sound or a clash sound for the light-saber app!
Reality Distortion Field
"... can Steve Jobs sell the technology that no one else seems to want?"
You just need to add "or need" to the end of that sentence.
Of course they can.
Too many risks
Don't know about others, but NFC and other similar technologies (including the UK's Oyster Card and the Netherland's OV Chipkaart) make me very uncomfortable. Sure, they have many advantages, but personally I see a lot of issues as well:
- Ability to track one's movements quite easily. Now it's just public transport, but RFID readers will become more and more ubiquitous. Yes, I know I can already be tracked by mobile phone, by credit card purchases and other things. All the more reasons not to get an extra tracking system on me - I'm running out of tinfoil.
- Open to fraud. I'm not talking about fraudulent recharges of transport cards - it's the transport companies' problem, I couldn't care less. What I'm worried about are concealed devices which can trick my card or my phone into making payments without my knowledge. You know, like someone with a reader hidden in a plain bag, collecting payments from anyone in the vicinity. And before someone jumps to say that it's not possible, remember that the Oyster and OV cards were marketed as being safe too.
- Difficult to reverse wrong charges. What if the reader in the bus or in the shop accidentally charges me twice or charges the wrong amount? With cash I can just get my money back, but how do you do it with an NFC device?
Because of these and of the dozens of other exploits that are bound to be invented, I prefer to make my money transactions in a more physical or at least visible form - cash, credit card etc. They're not perfect either, but at least I have a little more control over them.
local repeater stations?
Maybe there are some such things for wifi about the home/office/mall/village/town/city/ ... /universe?
But what would seem neat (if it can be done or maybe it is being done anyway?) would be a way for intermediate devices to act as local repeater stations thereby increasing range of a wifi network?
Too many questions for sure?
Or could you use this for stuff *other* than paying for your tube ticket/groceries/whatever?
Shirley NFC is a secure, contactless communications channel. So you could have a case with extra hardware in it (a bar code scanner or something).
Or you could have a contactless dock. If Apple build in inductive charging you could have a phone without a connector slot to accumulate crud.
Since water is one of the common causes of failure it might even be feasible to have a phone that's waterproof as standard (if you can get rid of the other leakage points).
Buck Futter @ Tuesday 10th November 2009 12:14 GMT
"There's one crucial element missing from this proposition (imho), and that would be biometric reader on the device itself."
This matter came up at the Biometrics 2009 conference*. In connection with PCs, rather than mobile phone handsets, but what's the difference? The cheap fingerprint scanners available with many laptops are just toys. The biometrics industry has a long way to go before reliable equipment can be economically deployed. Until then, we're stuck with PINs/passphrases.
"And then, there was Vali Ali on the stage. Vali is a Distinguished Technologist (seven worldwide patents granted and 34 pending) for the Personal Systems Group at Hewlett-Packard (HP) and, in a bravura performance mixing wild humour with intelligent scorn, he let the biometrics suppliers have it between the irises.
He produces 30 million PCs a year. He has no time, no margin and lots of competition. Biometrics suppliers come to him with proposals that you need "3½ PhDs" to evaluate, the OEMs don't know what they're selling and the customers don't know what they're buying. Until biometrics components can be bought and sold like commodities, the way he can buy graphics cards, the whole industry will remain in the mess it is in currently, with no-one able to write applications for the stored fingerprints because the APIs keep changing or the biometrics supplier won't release an SDK. The biometrics industry today sows nothing but confusion, he said, and no-one disagreed."
Steve says boom...
Make the most of the short time left for privacy
NFC is an obvious winner. When an obvious winner doesn't take off, there has to be a reason. Chercher la femme? No. Follow the money ...
Banks/credit card companies "do" payments. Telcos "do" networks. And then there are the handset manufacturers. Until these three blocs agree how to carve up the real estate, NFC will be tethered.
If and when agreement is reached, NFC will be huge. This prediction is at least 6 years old and it may take another 6 years to come true but it will.
And then consider the two sides of this coin:
1. The unimaginative triviality of the Identity & Passport Service and the UK Border Agency will be revealed. They will be scorned for wasting billions of pounds of taxpayers' money on the 1940s technology of smart cards when all the time we were already holding ID cards/passports/visas in our hand, in the form of mobiles we had already paid for voluntarily.
2. It will be possible to track our every movement.
There's no choice. It's going to happen, http://dematerialisedid.com/ Most of it has already happened*, in fact, the world is just waiting to integrate payments with identification and tracking. Take advantage of this short wait to try to get some sort of agreed independent control over who is warranted to have access to what data.
* http://www.ekahau.com/images/stories/documents/ekahau-multi-hypothesis-tracking-whitepaper-oct-2009.pdf :
"By combining these several innovative methods into one algorithm, the Ekahau research team was able to eliminate the restrictions of the unstable and dynamic RF signal space, and has produced a technology that enables the most high-performance, precise/accurate and reliable wireless tracking solution on the market. Today, Ekahau RTLS is benchmarked to track tens of thousands of mobile objects, assets or people, in real time with only a few second update intervals, with down to 1-3 meter accuracy."
Nearly unlimited possibilities
1) This is a primary technology usable in Microsoft Surface apps. This might hint at an Apple equivalent (without it having to be a surface as well; think of setting an iPhone on your desk, and automatically it becomes a computer input device and extension of your screen)
2) touch it to a product in a store to access info about it, and for media buy right through the device and put the product back on the shelf. no more barcode scanning by taking pictures...
3) use the iPhone to buy stuff in machines, or pay at a cashier, as they already do in other countries, but with visual feedback on screen more than "enter your pin".
4) proximity aware information syncing (more secure than bluetooth).
5) much easier pairing of devices and accessories, and less power to communicate with them.
This could go on and on.
"Don't know about others, but NFC and other similar technologies (including the UK's Oyster Card and the Netherland's OV Chipkaart) make me very uncomfortable. Sure, they have many advantages, but personally I see a lot of issues as well:
- Ability to track one's movements quite easily. Now it's just public transport, but RFID readers will become more and more ubiquitous. Yes, I know I can already be tracked by mobile phone, by credit card purchases and other things. All the more reasons not to get an extra tracking system on me - I'm running out of tinfoil."
Well, they can track your movement by bluetooth ID or SIM card ID if your pohone is on anyway. Seleral malls already do that, BUT, that does NOT give them access to IDENTITY information about you. They know a person with SIM ID 123456789 walked into a store, and stood near a cash register for 5 minutes, and maybe they picked up an RFID session initiation, however, wether you made a purchase, processed a return, and especially who you are, are all secret to them. The cash register knows who you are, but that's information you expect a retailer to have anyway, and they'd be required to have on a credit purchase, so who cares. Nobody else can noop other than to track your device noxt time it returns, and how often, but they ALREADY GET THAT from your SIM card, so an additional techn ology, especially one limited to transmit range in INCHES is irrelevent.
"- Open to fraud. I'm not talking about fraudulent recharges of transport cards - it's the transport companies' problem, I couldn't care less. What I'm worried about are concealed devices which can trick my card or my phone into making payments without my knowledge. You know, like someone with a reader hidden in a plain bag, collecting payments from anyone in the vicinity. And before someone jumps to say that it's not possible, remember that the Oyster and OV cards were marketed as being safe too."
Um, dumbass, you have to type in a pin, or on screen comit to the transaction, not to mention, opening the app that allows the incoming request from the cash register in the first place. They can NOT automatically process a transaction without you doing something on the screen. Next, since it;s a device-to-device secure communication, another device (which would have to be within inches) can't piggy back and replicate that transaction without it being obvious to Visa later. The device only communicates with the cash register, which still has to process a validated payment... The issue with the older tech was it could simply be scanned, this requires an interactive response from the user to initiate a transaction...
"- Difficult to reverse wrong charges. What if the reader in the bus or in the shop accidentally charges me twice or charges the wrong amount? With cash I can just get my money back, but how do you do it with an NFC device?"
It;s still Visa on the back end. You're going to see both on the cash register, and on your phone screen, payment ammount confirmation. It's no more at risk of sending a bad transaction as swiping a regular card. An NFC device is simply an electronic connection to another existing credit source. Have you never called Visa or your bank to dispute a transaction? Also, you have a receipt in your hand from the electronic transaction, if it went through wrong, do a return while you;re standing there!
"Because of these and of the dozens of other exploits that are bound to be invented, I prefer to make my money transactions in a more physical or at least visible form - cash, credit card etc. They're not perfect either, but at least I have a little more control over them."
Cash is easy to lose, easy to have stolen, has no inherent security at all, and is easily mis-counted (and extremely difficult to dispute unless caught instantly, and even then requires a full till countdown to confirm the issue). Credit cards are EXACTLY as secure as NFD, since it;s STILL a credit card. Actually, since noone gets to see the account number in full, noone holds the card in their hands to run through a hidden reader under the counter, it;s even MORE secure. Checks are easily stolen and used, and most banks offer little or no protection from bad checks and can take weeks to return the money to your account. I've been a retailer and had a contract to accept credit cards. I've also as a consumer disputed numerous charges, especially from online retailers, and it;s never taken more than a few hours to have things corrected (and about 20-30 minutes of that on a phone, the rest simply wwaiting for a confirmation reply call).
Michael C @ Tuesday 10th November 2009 14:19 GMT
"Credit cards are EXACTLY as secure as NFD, since it;s STILL a credit card."
No. Or at least, not necessarily. Turning your credit card into an application on a mobile phone could be a lot more secure than using a material credit card.
At the moment, we have PKI between the credit card companies and the merchants' terminals. That guards against spoofing, it cuts out eavesdropping and it "guarantees" authenticity of the message, i.e. the payment. Twice, the credit card companies have tried to extend PKI to the card itself, to give true end-to-end authentication, and twice they have failed.
It's not easy, but if the material credit card is dematerialised and installed on a handset – a handset which is, after all, an extraordinarily powerful computer with built-in messaging – then maybe we could get end-to-end PKI and, thus, greater security than we have at present, http://dematerialisedid.com/Dematerialisation.html#credit
I believe it is a hallmark feature of Apple to go into an industry that is overly complicated and quickly become the leader thanks to simplifying the qualities and ignoring all of the other stuff the pundits claim are essential. Remember how when they introduced the iPod, no one would buy one because it didn't have wireless and was deemed too expensive? Remember how they said the iPhone didn't have this or that feature, like copy-paste, and yet it still became the game-changing device.
I'm sure that if Apple were to enter the NFC field with the iPhone they would quickly popularise it, just as they did with USB in '98. It's a chicken-and-egg solution: as soon as you have a chicken, you'll have an egg (granted, you still need a cock; that's where El Jobso comes in I guess). The iPhone carries an enormous amount of momentum, not just in numbers, but in the people who have adopted it. These are the kind of people who are willing to plonk down cold hard cash for apps and music.
But the reason why I mentioned biometrics is, that without some means of authenticating the iPone would either lose a lot of user-friendliness, or privacy. Already, I keep a lot of stuff on my iPhone I don't want other people to see: sms, mail, bookmarks. Nothing too shady, but still not stuff I'd want just anyone to see.
If in a couple of years, the iPhone becomes your means to travel on the public transit system, enter your office building, buy your sandwiches and frappucino, and all that without a single means of security would mean pandemonium. Unless they implement a password system every time you want to swipe at something, which would lead to endless queues as some daft berk is trying to remember his code when entering the tube station.
No, if I were in charge of this sytem I'd use a vein sensor on the back. Remember, it doesn't have to be unbreakable because it's part of a two-component equation: your iPhone + your veins = you. You wouldn't be able to log in on a different iPhone with your paw. Just place your iPhone in one of your hands, and imagine the vein-scanner at the bottom half of the device. Now imagine the screen lighting up with a receipt for groceries, and all you have to do is "swipe to accept".
Apple don't take risks?
People pointed and laughed at the first iMac because it had no floppy drive and lacked anything other than USB ports—none of the old Apple-proprietary serial interfaces were included. Prior to the iMac's release, *nobody* was really pushing USB at all; you could count the number of useful USB peripherals on the fingers of your left elbow.
Apple don't do new *technology*, but they do take risks. (Mac Cube, anyone? Apple TV?) Hell, even the first iPods and iPhone were derided—the latter didn't even come with 3G or MMS support in its original incarnation! Who's laughing now?
Apple is all about the user interface. That's what they do. It's not magic. It's not even a secret. They don't give a shit about hardcore corporate sales—that's what Windows is for. (It's also why all those "Windows has 90%+ of the market!" stats are utterly misleading: those stats invariably include the millions upon millions of PCs sitting in offices around the globe. Apple don't sell to that market and aren't interested in it. The *correct* stat is *consumer* market share.)
Surely Apple have the perfect micro payments platform already in place in the form of the iTunes store. The terms might be onerous but it exists and works well enough. NFC will just be another way to spend your money just like you can on movies, apps and music. NFC is an idea that is long overdue and its not just payment systems that it can/will be used for. Its short range make it very suitable for specific classes of applications in a way that Bluetooth or WiFi are not. Bring it on.
"What I'm worried about are concealed devices which can trick my card or my phone into making payments without my knowledge. You know, like someone with a reader hidden in a plain bag, collecting payments from anyone in the vicinity. "
"There's an app for that..." -- Apple advertisement; 2012
"another opportunity for iPhone owners to whip out their toy and wave it around for all to see"
That's the entire reason for NFC.
Apple will succeed where others failed
Here's hoping that the main implementation of this NFC will be for e-money.
Let's face it - in Europe and the US, every attempt to provide an alternative to hard cash has fizzled and died. Each attempt has suffered from limited choice and poor uptake; Barclaycard are trying to ride on the back of Oyster in the UK, but you have to live in London, use/like Barclaycard, and want to spend money at the few retailers that have subscribed. Paris has some more successful cashless systems - but more than one. There's no ubiquity.
With Apple and the iPhone... Apple have the potential to manage the hardware, the software, the online store, the payment process, APIs and applications that use it - the entire ecosystem end-to-end. They have the commercial and marketing clout to get a few key big retailers or service providers to subscribe to the service from launch, and there's a fairly clear demographic of the type of people that the retailers can expect to use it... Combine that with store loyalty schemes, consumer profiling on purchases, potential for sending back advertising on this standard rich media platform, and you can see why Apple and Retailers would love it.
It also offers a move into a new market, which Apple's shareholders will like. First computers, then music players and music sales, mobile phones, and now a form of financial services.
Buck Futter @ Tuesday 10th November 2009 15:53 GMT
"... the reason why I mentioned biometrics is, that without some means of authenticating the iPone would either lose a lot of user-friendliness, or privacy ...
"If in a couple of years, the iPhone becomes your means to travel on the public transit system, enter your office building, buy your sandwiches and frappucino, and all that without a single means of security would mean pandemonium. Unless they implement a password system every time you want to swipe at something, which would lead to endless queues as some daft berk is trying to remember his code when entering the tube station."
The biometrics technology just isn't there now. Not for the mass consumer market.
How long would you be prepared to wait before raking in the billions from NFC? You're not going to hang around for the biometrics to catch up. And what about all the people who can't enrol, for some physical reason? Or who suffer from false non-matches, they can't be recognised? And what happens when someone steals your voiceprint, irisprint, fingerprint, veinprint + credit card details and spoofs a payment?
There is a "daft berks" problem with PINs, I grant you, but somehow we all get through the check-out at Sainsburys.
If the biometrics worked, the banks would have deployed them by now. After all, they're the ones who have to foot the bill for credit card fraud (before passong it on to us).
No, the delay is agreeing between the banks, the telcos and the handset manufacturers who gets how much of a cut from NFC. Vodafone would no doubt like to reduce churn by having a proprietary NFC payments system. How much should Barclays be paid to help them achieve that? And how will the "be me" button application work on Nokia handsets? The same as on Sony Ericson handsets? Will "be me" work the same with MasterCard and Visa? Can Symbian patent the use case? Will merchants get a discount (on the huge commission they pay the credit card companies) if they take NFC payments? How do you transport the technology to PCs? After all, why should Amazon accept reduced security on purchases via a PC when they could get more security/less fraud on purchases via a mobile?
These, I suspect, are the sort of issues being negotiated. Not the Noddy biometrics we have at the moment.
D Moss Esq get it right
Follow the money.
Say you load €100/$100 or whatever onto your pre-paid mobile provided by your friendly Telco -say Vodafone. The money is sitting in bank account belong to Vodafone earning interest for them, but associated with your phone number via a unique GSM SIM ID. Now you use it to pay for calls, data, SMS/MMS, ringtones,then the telco providing all the infrastructure for the payment billing system, makes very nice profit margins on each dollar/euro/£ spent. In the case of SMS, each dollar spent makes them nearly 100% profit margin.
Now what happens if that same credit loaded up on your machine is used to buy train/bus tickets, cans of coke from a vending machine etc? The telco might be able to get away with a 2% margin on the transaction; but why should say masstransport or vending machine operators pay much commission because the users has an iPhone rather than cash? And the telco might be paying for expensive infrastructure and support costs for payments but reaping little of the revenue if somebody with an iPhone uses it for the odd txt but lots of payment transactions.
Have been in this situation before when a large local telco killed a project I was working on because the business case did not stack up.
Of course, never write off Apple; they have managed to work around telcos and RIAA before, very very well. If any company could get Telco's to pay for Apple/iPhone users to have an advantage, then Apple could. But I bet it would be a hard slog.
Here is an iPhone using NFC... kinda cool
scroll down for the video...
The thing I dislike about RFID tags is their "always on" nature: anyone with an RFID scanner can access the chip (whether or not the chip sends out sensitive data is entirely separate). If any future ubiquitous device (e.g. mobile phones) was to include an RFID chip, there would have to be a way to turn the chip off in order to prevent random scanners detecting/targeting your device.
It's bad enough that my passport has one of the little buggers in it now.
Where is the puck going to be?
As usual, Apple doesn't look at the industry as it is now, but where it might be if they were to enter that industry. The first iPods and iPhones were more like test-cases when looked at fromseveral incarnations down the line. Were they great when they were introduced? Yes. Would I have bought one? No. Too damn expensive, and not enough features.
Apple doesn't give a damn about the telcos, so if they can broker a deal with a third party they will do so. Imagine owning several grocery stores, and all you'd have to do install a few checkout poles in addition to your existing registers. Name it an "iPhone Fast Lane". From that point on, all your expenses for those checkout points will be eaten by Apple. You agree on a percentage (which I don't think will be anywhere near 30%) for costs and handling, and the rest is profit.
Make it so that with the digital receipt is a link to your iPhone app, where customers can have a gander at what's on offer.
As for the "always on" approach, yes, that is troublesome. But instead of it being detectable, it could have a stealth mode like the firewall in OSX. Every time you are near an NFC device, the iPhone will know, but the device itself will only know when the iPhone responds to it.
You see, the iPhone is a platform, not a device, and Apple is trying to position it as a truly portable computer for the 21st century: something that is always on, always connected, and holds every aspect of your digital life.
The components are there.
I've already received a Visa payWave card from my bank, which has replaced my old card, which I'm led to believe consists of a dual contact/contactless chip and an induction loop. These cards are slowly but surely making their way into the hands of the general public - all we're waiting for is for retailers to start installing the equipment.
I think the ideal situation would be to make these cards SIM-sized, and without the induction loop, and then build phones with an additional slot that the card can be inserted into, which connects the card to an induction loop built into the phone.
I'd eat my keyboard if it ever happened. Persuading manufacturers to add an additional slot that will increase the size of the device without giving them any control over the system would be an impossible task. But I think it's the best idea.
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