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Incubator Program Yields BLE and NFC Credentialing

The Kantara Initiative has completed a project with Exponent in which the credentials of an emergency responder or other individual can be loaded onto a smartphone and then be accessed securely via BLE or NFC using another phone.
By Claire Swedberg

If they use BLE, the officers would already have seen the responders' credentials by the time they reached the front of the line. A picture of each individual could be stored with his or her data as well. Since Exponent serves as a consultant on the project, the company does not manufacture or sell products. "What we did was take the code we developed and make it freely available for other users," Fessler says. "It's free on GitHub right now."

The third phase of the Kantara project will involve creating a commercial product through technology partners. "We'll be undertaking pilots and making firm proposals with a commercial context," Wallis states.

In some cases, Fessler says, agencies could create NFC- or BLE-based tokens that they could very quickly hand out to authorized parties. They could then gain access quickly, even if they did not have their phones with them. The system wouldn't need to be used only by emergency responders, Fessler notes. "Any time you want to authenticate," he says, adding, "Consider a pizza man at a guard facility. You can authenticate that person, and the beauty is there's no hardware, just phones."

"The entire thing is centered around three fundamentals," Fessler says: security, interoperability and the ability to work offline. The OPACITY protocol ensures the transmission will be secure, and not be made available to other parties. The agnostic feature is the interoperability between Android and iOS, he adds. "The only thing you would need is a phone and an app—no additional devices, and it's all open-source."

The third fundamental is the ability to work offline, Fessler reports. The system could work anywhere, even in an environment lacking a wired infrastructure or a cellular connection. "It could be nothing more than one dude standing out in the desert and the pizza guy shows up," he states. The technology could also enable an agency to create and update a list of approved and unapproved individuals. "What we have is secure phone to phone communication," Wallis says. "We think it's transformational."

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