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Moversa bridges contactless tech gaps

Posted: 11 Dec 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:contactless technology? U-SAM? NFC service? Moversa?

Frericks: NXP and Sony acknowledged the need to aggregate all the available contactless services in order for the entire ecosystem of the mobile contactless market to grow.

Taking a novel approach to promoting contactless technology, Sony Corp. and NXP Semiconductors formed a joint venture to develop secure chips that will combine the companies' competing contactless smart card technologies.

The newly launched JV company, Moversa, will plan, develop, produce and market a secure chip!the Universal Secure Access Module (U-SAM)!that incorporates NXP's MIFARE and Sony's FeliCa OS and applications.

Guus Frericks of NXP, who shares the Moversa co-presidency with Toshio Yoshihara of Sony, told EE Times-Asia that the two companies joined forces to address consumer demand for easy access to content and services with portable devices using secure seamless contactless solutions without constraint limitations on the underlying technology.

According to Frericks, both companies agreed to form Moversa to realize a universal secure chip and show their strong commitment to meet the market's need. "NXP and Sony also acknowledged that there was a need to aggregate all the available contactless services in order for the entire ecosystem of the mobile contactless market to grow," he said.

Breaking the limit
While contactless solutions hold a big promise, its adoption has been very limited. Frericks explained that while NFC may seem as though it's been around for a long time, it still is a relatively new technology. "We are only just starting to fully understand the great potential that NFC can bring to a wide range of consumer applications. Without a doubt, one of the biggest drivers in the acceptance and adoption of NFC technology will be the ubiquitous and indispensable mobile phone."

The past few years have been witness to the rise of NFC. A large number of NFC trials have taken place in major countries with business partners involved creating a comprehensive model around NFC. The wide-scale NFC rollouts, however, can take time, said Frericks.

"We are now at the stage where several places have completed their trials, and commercial rollouts are beginning to take shape. NFC is now a globally accepted standard and most of the major telecommunications operators, mobile phone handset makers and semiconductor companies are involved. In Japan, where the business model for contactless transport and small purchase transactions first gained popularity, we see now that the biggest adopters of the technology!DoCoMo, Softbank and KDDI!have all become members of the NFC Forum and are likely to have their own plans for the release of NFC-enabled phones," he added.

Global challenges
In its analysis of the NFC market, ABI Research predicted that by 2012, some 292 million handsets, or over 20 percent of global mobile phones shipped will have built in NFC-capabilities.

And while the challenges of global adoption of NFC have now largely been overcome, Frericks identified them in four key areas.

The first two, he said, were technological hurdles. Frericks explained that there was previously no standardized interface between the phone and the SIM card and handset makers didn't know how to implement NFC in their phones.

The third area is the one being addressed by Moversa. Frericks said that the companion chip Moversa will provide allows the global operation of cellphones to expand the number of services available for use anywhere. "For example, a person travelling to the UK from Japan will theoretically be able to use his mobile phone to access London's underground in the same way that he would in Tokyo," he explained.

The last challenge concerning global adoption of NFC has been the interaction of telecoms, banks and transport operators as well as governments in forming the suitable business model. "These businesses had traditionally been the ones to 'own' their customers directly and expose them to their brand; so in order to establish a far-reaching ecosystem a lot of discussion and cooperation is necessary between these companies," Frericks said.

Three-in-one solution
He added that although there have been many promising pilots, the problem remains with the lack of varied services and interoperability with other services/providers. Frericks cited that besides having incompatible technologies, this is one of the main reasons why the contactless market for cellphones continues to be very fragmented.

Here is where Moversa checks in. The company will offer and promote the U-SAM, with both NXP's MIFARE and Sony's FeliCa, and other third-party OS capabilities on board. A "three-in-one" solution for contactless smart cards that operates worldwide, the company is confident that U-SAM will drive global adoption of contactless smart card applications in any portable device.

A simple, secure and universal solution, Frericks noted that Moversa's technology brings a broad range of benefits to all parties at local and global levels.

  • Handset manufacturers can provide universal products compatible with different contactless protocols and OS;
  • Mobile service providers and mass transit service operators can offer a wide range of scalable contactless services through the handset, building stronger customer relationships and creating new revenue opportunities;
  • Roaming subscribers can access these services globally;
  • Mobile phone users enjoy lifestyle enhancements with services including cashless payments, online purchases, ticketing for mass transit, access to entertainment, membership services and secure ID for access.

    NFC promise
    Frericks stressed that in countries where the contactless infrastructure is well established, consumer benefits of the technology are very clear. Japan's three major telecom operators!NTT DoCoMo, Softbank and KDDI!have joined the NFC Forum, hinting a high likelihood of a rapid shift to NFC phones once commercially available. The same goes in Korea and parts of China, where extensive infrastructure is already in place, he noted.

    "The adoption of NFC will be a powerful tool in the broader consumer and computing markets, too. In the near future consumers will begin seeing products in the market that offer NFC functionality as part of Bluetooth pairing and Wi-Fi configuration processes, as well as being an integral part of the next Wireless USB standard. This will enable our phones to 'talk' to our PCs and almost any other device with ease," Frericks said.

    Despite the enticing potential of contactless solutions in mobile payments and transport ticketing, security concerns are inevitable. Frericks assured that as a secure chip manufacturer, Moversa will get the U-SAM certified for standards such as the Common Criteria, which is widely accepted in the smart card industry. The company also intends to discuss with individual service providers the extra security measures, especially in the case of handset loss or theft.

    - Rhea Barua
    EE Times-Asia

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