Near field communication, which only seemed like a dream in North America months ago, is on the verge with virtually every mobile carrier, handset manufacturer and payment processor announcing plans for 2011. Handsets equipped with NFC chips could readily be used for physical or logical access tokens with the addition of some software.
But could existing smart phones without NFC be used in place of smart cards to secure access to Web sites and computer networks? There are only a handful of computers shipping with embedded contactless smart card readers, but Bluetooth is another option to tether PCs and devices, and there is the ubiquitous USB port that could be used to connect the mobile phone to a computer.
2011 is shaping up to be a big year for NFC, and it’s possible that the technology could be used in identity applications, says Goode. Though largely touted as a tool to replace payment that use contactless systems, there’s no reason NFC handsets couldn’t be used where a converged credential infrastructure is in place.
The credential could be provisioned over the air and enrollment would have to be done just once, Goode says. The chicken-and-egg challenge is that few laptops and PCs are equipped with contactless readers today. Proliferation of NFC handsets, however, could change that situation.
Until enabled computers are readily available, the NFC device could be used for physical access to facilities while the phone could be used for logical access via another connection, possibly WiFi or Bluetooth, says Gemalto’s Carrara.
But, Carrara says, payments will be the first NFC application and identity will come later. “Payments is something we do everyday,” he adds. “Showing a driver license is something we do less so it will take longer to integrate.” He predicts that within two to four years use of the handset for payments and identity will be common.
2011 will be a transition time for mobile phones and what consumers do with them, says Goode. “The mobile is here to stay,” Goode says. “For identity and authentication we’re in that transition period, replacing what we do with smart cards and tokens … there will be some major changes in how we do authentication in the future.”
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