“We have barely scratched the surface of what smartphones, Near Field Communications (NFC), and secure element technology can do for secure services," said Jon Edgcombe, leader of the application software technologies group at Cambridge Consultants, a well established design and products consultancy and part of the European Altran engineering group.
The established concepts of contactless payments, mobile wallets and moves towards fully mobile banking already signal a major change in the secure services that can be performed wirelessly or with a smartphone, but smartphones will start to replace everything from IDs and passports to website logins, anti-counterfeiting and as replacements for keys.
Mobile wallets and ticketing are just the jumping off point. The short and long-range wireless capabilities of smartphones are ripe to be exploited for a far greater range of secure applications – things like identity verification using face or voice biometrics, for example.
“We’re just at the point where the full potential of the technology for smartphones to be a central point in secure services is starting to be fulfilled," he said. "Although there are some technical challenges to overcome to get to this point, we firmly believe that smartphones will transform how consumers interact with a range of day-to-day secure items – not just your bank card and wallet but also your house and car keys, your travel tickets, loyalty schemes, healthcare devices, even corporate access and beyond.”
Not only is the device linked directly to an individual – and usually carried on their person at all times – but it offers a flexible user interface and processing platform. Moreover, increasingly the technology to secure the required connectivity, imaging or data processing capabilities is already embedded in the phone.
"The key limiting factor is access to the secure store of information on the device, and who controls this – the smartphone designer, the mobile network operator, a third-party ‘trusted service manager’ or the end user," he said. "The last approach – where the end user controls the secure element in the same way you currently control which apps are on your smartphone – is gaining support in some application areas. Despite this uncertainty, many organisations – ourselves included – are looking at ways to take advantage of the technology in order to open up a whole new world of products and services in medical and pharmaceutical, home care, automotive, transport, energy and consumer markets.
“In addition, the opportunity for secure data collection, processing and communication has an immediate application in the increasingly valuable area of authentication and track and trace to secure supply chains against counterfeit or diverted products and other illegal activities, whilst providing an easily customisable and upgradeable set of applications and user interfaces to suit different stakeholders.”