Could Bluetooth-enabled credit cards beat NFC?

November 18, 2015 // By Julien Happich
Quite unusual for Cartes & Secure Connexions, the exhibition grounds were fairly quiet on the opening day, Tuesday 17th of November, indeed a number of exhibiting companies and visitors had cancelled their travel plans to Paris after the recent terrorist attacks.

Putting aside card printing services and mobile e-banking solutions, I found intriguing smart card implementations, not only integrating multiple buttons and displays as they first appeared some years ago, but for the first time, with a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) wireless connection on top of the pervasive NFC capability.

Taiwan-based SmartDisplayer Technology Co. Ltd, a smart card assembler integrating various technologies such as e-paper displays, NFC and BLE chips together with a secure element, a flexible battery and a dome button, was exhibiting its SDPay multiple-cards-in-one solution.

The use of an active-matrix gray-scale e-Paper display is bluffing (compared to the more traditional segmented displays). The 24.6x21.9mm display window supports any text or graphics, making it easy to read account balance and processes.

A centrally located "next" button allows users to select through various credit-card options. While NFC would be typically used to tap on payment terminals, the Bluetooth link allows the card to communicate with a smartphone's app, turning the multiple-wallet smartcard into a secure one-time-password (OTP) generator or a QRCode generator to secure online transactions. The card's flexible battery is rechargeable using a dedicated wireless charger, with a rated lifespan of two years.

Why would you want Bluetooth on a smart card, I asked SmartDisplayer Technology's Chairman & CEO George Ou.

Ou admitted such elaborate solutions come at a price which most banks are unable to afford when issuing millions of cards. But there are some use cases for luxury branding and casinos where money is plentiful to seduce customers, the CEO hinted.