Google casts a long shadow over the future of
m-payments using near-field communication (NFC) technology as its
developers effectively write off card emulation as the way
During the Google I/O developer’s conference
held in California, Google’s Jeff Hamilton and Nick Pelly,
engineers working on the Android NFC stack, explained why there is
no application programme interface (API) support for card emulation
on Google’s Gingerbread mobile handset.
“If we were to build such APIs [for the
Gingerbread] the applications are going to have a really
inconsistent experience as they are deployed to different Android
devices,” said Pelly.
“Some will support NFC-A, some will support
NFC-B. We don’t think this is really going to be a really great
story for third-party developers right now.
“Secondly, when you are doing card emulation,
you are emulating a passive target that is going to have one
kilobyte, two kilobytes of memory. You are going to then have to
decide which application has the right to manage this limited
Pelly claims Google did not integrate card
emulation APIs into Gingerbread as it wants to ensure a compelling
In a further barrier to card emulation, the
hardware in a mobile device is currently set up to facilitate the
process through the secure element and, according to Hamilton,
Google does not currently have the APIs to communicate with the
secure element – something that is not expected to change in the
“The secure element is a limited resource, it
cannot hold a large amount of data in there,” said Hamilton.
“And if we open it up to any third-party
application, there is going to be a huge resource contention over
the secure element.
Additionally to talk to the secure elements,
even from the applications on the phone, you need to authenticate
yourself properly. If you were to improperly authenticate yourself
a certain number of times, there are secure elements out there that
will physically destroy themselves and can never be recovered.”
P2P payments seems to be a different story,
however, as this the road Pelly believes the industry should take
when it comes to NFC m-payments.
“We really think peer-to-peer is the way to go
for future NFC users,” he said.