The introduction of host card emulation (HCE) in Android 4.4 (KitKat) and announcements by both Visa and MasterCard that they will support the new technology standard are yet two more signs the barriers to near field communication (NFC) adoption are quickly falling away.
In this two part series, we will look at the impact HCE will have on NFC, and the adoption of the technology in the coming generation of smart phones. We will also look at how HCE works and is currently being implemented in phones that support Android 4.4.
What is Host Card Emulation?
Host card emulation creates a virtual and exact representation of a smart card using only software. HCE allows NFC applications to be hosted in the cloud as opposed to where it has traditionally existed, in the secure element on a SIM card. The secure element handles authentication and any financial institution that would like to roll out NFC mobile payment solutions would have to arrange it across multiple mobile networks, significantly increasing time to market.
HCE offers a software solution to this issue, allowing banks to offer a cloud-based solution without the need to coordinate with individual carriers. It also allows merchants to offer payment cards solutions more easily through mobile, closed-loop contactless payment solutions, real time distribution of payment cards, and an easy deployment scenario that does not require them to change the software inside their terminals.
And HCE is not just attractive to those looking to use it for payments. HCE potentially could be used for any NFC service. With HCE, NFC-enabled handsets are able to remove the physical secure element from the transaction, allowing services such as ticketing, identity and access control to be developed and implemented in a shorter amount of time.
According to Martin Cox, global head of Sales at Bell ID, inclusion of host-card emulation means that full NFC capability – including operation of the reader functionality of NFC handsets – would be made available to app developers. He told SecureID News that this would enable developers to create applications that can turn handsets into contactless card readers, a function that has potential in the mobile point-of-sale sector and a host of other markets.
How does HCE Work?
In part two of the series, we will look at how HCE works, and the impact it could have on the burgeoning NFC industry.
About the Author:
Robert P. Sabella has 20+ years of legal and entrepreneurial experience and is considered one of the most innovative leaders in developing and bringing new technologies to market. He is the founder of the NFC Bootcamp™ training series and has recently co-founded the AccelerateNFC incubator program, dedicated to fostering start-ups in bringing NFC technology to the market. He is co-author of RFID+™ and a prolific writer and speaker on NFC and RFID.