Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The saga of the NFC-enabled SIM

Turkey has often taken the lead in the deployment of advanced mobile banking applications. The deployment of digital signatures (and the application in banking) is by far more advanced than anything in the rest of the world. Garanti Bank recently announced (in conjunction with Avea (a new Turkish mobile operator)) that they have launched a NFC-enabled SIM. (Read here) This is in my view, one of the most important announcements in the mobile banking industry this year. The possibilities created by this advance is huge and should be evaluated further.

The biggest challenge faced in rolling out mobile enabled NFC (waving the phone in front of a reader) solutions is that very few phones actually ship with a proximity radio. This is an essential part of the NFC eco-system. Without this little piece of hardware, it is impossible to develop NFC solutions. (No advances in software can compensate for the lack of this piece of hardware). Placing the proximity radio on the SIM card has been considered as a possibility many times, but was always discarded because of one big challenge: the radio's antennae. The SIM card is too small to also carry a big enough antennae and furthermore, the SIM card is often hidden inside the phone, sometimes behind the battery. Even if the antennae were to reside on the SIM, it would be very ineffective and different from one phone to another.

It is not clear how this problem has been solved, but it seems to have been solved. This innovation (if replicable on other networks), would allow any phone to be NFC ready by just swapping the SIM card. Other pilots have utilised the memory slots available in phones and have used proximity radios installed on microSD cards. I am of the opinion that these pilots are now doomed as it is a much more plausible solution to place the radio on a SIM card.

3 comments:

Mohammed Sadiq (Etisalat UAE) said...

"It is not clear how this problem has been solved, but it seems to have been solved."

It is like a yes and no!

The SIM is a standard NFC SIM (supporting SWP protocol), but it connects to an external radio apparatus which makes it 'NFC'.

I see some serious challenges in durability, distribution, user education etc, not to mention this approach cannot work on all the handsets.

I humbly disagree with your comment "...one of the most important announcements in the mobile banking industry this year..."

Mohammed Sadiq said...

"It is not clear how this problem has been solved, but it seems to have been solved."

The solution which was deployed in Garanti is nothing new except that someone had the courage to deploy it. Various card vendors were trying this in their labs. But I don't see it as "...the most important announcement of the year...". I say so because, in my opinion this solution has challenges like durability, distribution, lack of user friendliness etc.

By the way, the solution is to connect an external 'radio apparatus' to the SIM card so that the antenna doesn't get behind the battery and thereby overcome the Faraday's law/effect.

Anythony said...

Mohammed sadiq perhaps you would suggest what is one of the most important announcements in mobile banking industry this year? Does it have anything to do with one of UAE carriers Etisalat? Awaiting your response.