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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
The cards, which can act as both an NFC RFID tag and an NFC reader, will then be utilized not only at the bookstore, but also for person-to-person transactions, such as a private sale of an item from one student to another. If, for instance, a student wishes to sell his used textbook, he can simply choose from selections on the phone, indicating what he is selling, along with the price, then press "sell." The buyer can then tap his phone to the buyer's phone and press the selection to purchase the item, and the seller can press a prompt to transmit the transaction information to the RFinity server, where the money can be deducted from the buyer's account and added to that of the seller. "For peer-to-peer transactions," McCown says, "our design requires the phone to be powered on."

By Dec. 31, Turner says he hopes "to have solid metrics from the first phase of the pilot," which he indicates will prove the security of transactions, as well as ease of use. At the end of the school year, he adds, he anticipates being able "to prove the market opportunity for peer-to-peer use." The company is planning a North American product launch for summer 2010, and a subsequent launch in Europe and Asia, though the exact dates for these implementations have yet to be determined.

"Our system provides the high-security platform that third-party partners could build on top of," Turner states. RFinity is already in discussion with some of those types of partners, such as entertainment companies that could enable the purchase of concert or movie tickets on mobile phones. The phones could then store that ticket information and enable the user access to the paid-for movie or concert, by tapping the phone against a reader at the site of the event. It could also be used by hotels, he says, whereby a customer could pay for a room by tapping his mobile phone at a terminal at the front desk, then utilize the same phone to open the room door.

According to market research firm Strategy Analytics, approximately 60 percent of cellular phones manufactured this year have a microSD slot. "The purpose of the microSD card is to provide NFC to phones without the technology," McCown explains. "However, we can also use our microSD security chip to augment NFC-capable phones," such as the Nokia 6131. "In the case of integrating an RFinity security microSD card with phones such as the Nokia 6131, the benefit is that the transactions would enjoy the protection of our encryption technologies."

While the iPhone does not have a microSD slot, McCown says, RFinity has met with Apple, which has given his company a framework "within which we can craft a solution at some point in the future."

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