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Idaho College to Test Secure NFC Phone Module

Brigham Young University students will try out RFinity's microSD NFC card, installed in handsets, to purchase items at the school's bookstore and make encrypted peer-to-peer transactions.
By Claire Swedberg
In September 2009, as the school year begins, RFinity plans to launch the first pilot at Brigham Young University, which is initially utilizing the system only in its bookstore. RFinity will provide approximately 100 students and faculty members with cell phones equipped with an RFinity security card, which is inserted into the microSD slot found on many mobile handsets. The school already provides each student and employee with an I-Card—a magnetic-stripe financial card that allows them to pay for goods and services on campus and have funds deducted from an account they establish on campus. In the pilot, the RFinity NFC payments will link directly to the I-Card payment system.

When a participant uses an I-Card to pay for items at the bookstore, he or she swipes the mag stripe on the back of the card at the point of sale, then provides the card itself to the cashier, in order to verify the picture. With the RFinity system, pilot participants could save as much as 30 seconds off their transactions by tapping the phone against an NFC reader at the point of sale.

As long as the payment is below a yet-to-be determined threshold (expected to be $20 or $30), the payment is automatically deducted from the user's I-Card account and the transaction is completed. If the payment cost is above the predetermined threshold, the participant punches in a password after tapping the mobile phone against the reader. The system can be configured to operate with the phone turned or off, although a connection with the phone powered on offers greater security.

Between October and December of this year, RFinity intends to gain partnership from several local banks, allowing pilot participants with local bank accounts to use the phone as a debit card with money deducted from their bank account if they so choose, rather than from the I-Card account.

The next phase of the pilot will begin in January 2010, Turner says, when as many as 1,000 microSD cards will be made available to participants to install in their own cell phones. Initially, the card will be used with LG and some Motorola phones that support Qualcomm's BREW software platform, though by next year, RFinity expects the card will be able to operate with JAVA, Android, Windows Mobile and Blackberry platforms, as well.

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