Friday, April 22, 2011

Everything You Need or Wanted to Know About NFC

By Jose Vilches on April 22, 2011 for

Here's an excellent overview of NFC Technology and how it will change the way we interact in the future.  If you don't have an NFC enabled smartphone or if security concerns are an issue, NFC Data, Inc. has created the world's first crytpo-secure NFC Card Reader, Writer and Viewer.  It comes in a variety of colors and is small enough for you to link to your keychain.  It enables you to transfer all your credit and debit cards, your loyalty cards, membership cards, etc. onto a single device, protected by crypto PIN Pad hardwired to the CPU. (left) It also will enable you to read NFC tags, smart posters, receive real-time location-based coupons and offers and view them all on it's color LCD screen.

If you are one of the few who already has an NFC enabled smartphone, NFC Data offers a downloadable app to enhance the security of your NFC interactions.  Click here to inquire.  For more information on NFC Data's Sqwizz, go to or   Here's more on why NFC is pegged as on of the "hottest tech trends" in years:

Near Field Communication, or simply NFC, is shaping up to be one of the hottest tech trends of the next few years. Mobile payment systems backed by major financial institutions are either already being tested or in plans to start tests, while smartphones with built-in NFC chips are making their way into the U.S. and Europe. But beyond payments, NFC has the potential to reach many other industries, from location-based services to ticketing and public transportation. 
It’s not too far-fetched to imagine a world where all we need to carry around with us is a single do-it-all device. NFC could allow our smartphone to pay for products, open doors, as well as act as our personal ID or a virtual ticket for transport and attractions. Say goodbye to your keys, wallet, cards and any extra weight in your pockets. 
Of course, there are loose ends that will need to be worked out before the technology actually catches on, like ensuring the proper infrastructure is there and addressing any security concerns. In this piece we are going to tell you the things that you should know about Near Field Communication and how it could make your life easier in the future. 
What Is Near Field Communication
Let's start with a basic definition: NFC is a wireless technology that makes use of interacting electromagnetic radio fields to transmit small bits of information between an "initiator" and a "target" -- a key card and your hotel room door, for example. It's similar to Bluetooth in the sense that both are short-range communication technologies, and is considered a subset of existing RFID (Radio Frequency ID) standards given that is uses radio waves for identification purposes. But NFC has its unique set of characteristics that will determine how it's used in real-world practical applications.  
For one thing NFC transmits data across much smaller distances, typically between 4 and 10 centimeters, compared to Bluetooth's 10-meter range, or in the case of some RFID implementations even kilometers. This by-design limitation reduces the likelihood of unwanted interception and makes NFC particularly suitable for crowded areas where correlating a signal with its transmitting physical device becomes difficult. 

Its short-range nature may significantly reduce the risk of eavesdropping but that alone does not guarantee secure communications; applications have to use higher-layer cryptographic protocols like SSL to establish a secure channel.
Another differentiating factor is that NFC sets up connections faster than standard Bluetooth and its low-power variant, Bluetooth 3.0. Instead of performing manual configurations to identify devices, the connection between two NFC devices is automatically established quickly in less than a tenth of a second. In fact, NFC could even be used to speed up the process of pairing two Bluetooth devices, acting as an initiator by simply bringing them close to each other.  Lastly, their data throughput capacity makes them fit for different applications. NFC operates within the globally available and unlicensed radio frequency ISM band of 13.56 MHz and can go up to a maximum data rate of 424Kb/s, whereas Bluetooth operates in the 2.4GHz frequency and can reach maximum data rate of 2.1Mb/s.
How Does It Work?
As mentioned before, NFC involves an initiator and a target, where the initiator actively generates an RF field that can power a passive target without an electricity source. I'll leave the electromagnetism explanations to Wikipedia or your favorite source of nerd facts, but the gist of it is that only one of the devices 'needs' to be powered. This enables NFC targets to take very simple form factors such as tags, stickers, key fobs, or cards that do not require batteries.  
A simple example would be holding a NFC-equipped smartphone near a tagged movie poster and getting all relevant information in seconds -- trailer, reviews, schedules at the nearest theater and the option to buy tickets online. The smartphone would be the initiator and the tagged poster would be the passive target.  While the poster can only be a passive target, NFC-equipped devices like smartphones can act as initiators, targets, or both combined in an active peer-to-peer mode. Elaborating on the same example, say you purchased a ticket to that movie from the poster, now you can bypass the line at the box office and redeem the ticket on your handset. The NFC reader at the movies is the initiator and reads the information from your phone, which acts as the target.
I'll discuss other possible uses next but at this point I want to note that some of this is already possible with current technologies like QR codes. You can buy a movie ticket online and get confirmation with a QR code attached by email, which you can print or simply flash from your smartphone screen to be scanned at the theater. So, despite all the hype about disruption, NFC is more about increasing convenience than enabling something completely new. Instead of swiping a credit card or scanning a barcode just tap the NFC reader with your phone and off you go.

What Will We Use It For? 
Much noise has been focused on NFC's ability to power mobile payments and that's perhaps because the promise is enticing: It will turn your mobile phone into a wallet. Wave your NFC-equipped phone at a store reader and be on your way. NFC has the potential to replace your credit cards, checkbooks and other clumsy payment methods for a single device that you already carry everywhere. That sounds great if you ask me. So what are other possible uses?

  • Public transportation. This could arguably be a subset of mobile payments but it's worth mentioning on its own. In fact, in urban areas with high population density and good public transportation this can be a major driver of NFC adoption. Pilot and commercial programs have already been deployed in many cities of the world -- including my current city Nice, France -- where you can pay the bus, metro or tram with a tap of your phone.
  • Ticketing. Take the movie theater example in the previous section and apply it to any kind of ticket: concerts or live shows, conferences, sporting events, theme parks, checking into a flight and boarding.
  • Keys. Imagine getting rid of that extra weight in your pocket by replacing your entire keychain with your mobile phone. With a NFC-enabled phone you could potentially tap your way into your apartment, office or hotel room, start your car's engine, and access anything else that requires a key with one single device.
  • Comparison-shopping. Whether you are doing groceries, buying clothes or getting something from the local electronics store, with a wave of your phone you could have access to reviews, additional product information, or prices from other stores. Much like you can do today with barcode scanning but faster.
  • "Check-ins" and venue reviews. Google recently began pushing this by putting NFC-enabled Places stickers just outside some restaurants and businesses in the Portland, OR area. With your NFC-equipped phone you can easily rate places or read reviews so you have an idea if the food or service is any good before going in. It's also useful for getting 'point of interest' information in cities or location-based social networks like Foursquare.

    These are just some of the practical applications of the technology. Google implementing NFC support natively within Android is a great boost for developers who want to create applications that rely on exchanging information based on proximity, and with smartphone makers starting to include NFC chips in their products we'll probably see numerous other examples of how we can make our daily interactions quick, effortless and more engaging.
    From what I can tell these interactions can be essentially split into three categories: Touch and Go, where a simple tap gives you access to something like tickets for a movie; Touch and Confirm, adding an extra layer of security for things like mobile payments by requiring a PIN code or just accepting the transaction; and Touch and Connect, when there is an active exchange of data such as sharing contact information with another person


    We've been hearing about NFC and contact-less mobile payments in the U.S. for years, but it's only been during the past few months that there's been a rush of activity signaling that the technology might finally take off. One issue is consumer behavior but in many cases that can be fairly easy to overcome. In the case of mobile payments specifically there is bound to be some resistance over security concerns and its up to payment processors to offer the appropriate safeguards. With a few exceptions around the world, most systems are still in trial, but looking at current implementations like MasterCard's PayPass you can get an idea of where things are going: zero liability protection programs, use of encryption technologies and requiring PIN codes for transactions over a certain amount.The bigger issue is that NFC is not on the majority of phones and NFC readers are not widely available at merchants. This is slowly starting to change but it's not something that will happen overnight, and of course there comes the chicken-and-egg paradox: until more merchants accept contact-less payments there will be limited interest from customers in getting NFC-equipped phones or from manufacturers in selling them, and until you have a significant installed user base of consumer NFC devices, merchants won't be willing to invest in the payment-processing devices.Big and small players are looking to make money through mobile payments and businesses are starting to take an interest in NFC as a way to improve engagement with customers at points of sale. I think there's a big chance NFC takes off in the next couple of years and we're getting front row seats to see who can make their solutions stick. 
    Japan's ANA passengers can check in and board local flights by waving a mobile phone to a machine
    It's important to note that NFC or NFC-like systems are already widely used in some Asian countries, most notably Japan, which rolled out the first phones with built-in mobile payment chips as far back as July 2004. Today, about half of the country's more than 100 million subscribers have this capability, though some estimates put regular use at just 10%. The country uses a proprietary technology called FeliCa, developed by Sony, but eventually plans to move to the standardized NFC to avoid the higher licensing fees and increased cost of phones and readers.
    In the U.S., Europe and several countries throughout the world there are numerous tests and pilot programs being conducted. While conducting research for this article I was hoping to play around with France's NFC implementation in Nice, dubbed Cityzi, but unfortunately several days after activating the service and despite many calls to get it sorted out, it is still not working. It's not clear to me if this is an isolated event but I'm sure many would turn away from the technology if this was their first impression, which is why implementation and execution is so important for adoption.Nevertheless, this pilot program that's been in effect since mid-2010, has been successful enough that is expanding to 9 more French cities and will be made available in a range of last generation handsets from key providers this year. 
    Who Is Backing It? 
    Mobile phone carriers, credit card companies, banks, companies like Google and PayPal, device manufacturers... there are financial gains in store for players across the field and with the hype surrounding NFC growing nobody wants to be left out. In the last few months almost every major mobile carrier in the U.S., banks and credit card companies have either announced plans or have started trialing NFC based payment systems.PayPal, Google Checkout and Amazon Payments are also said to be working on NFC solutions, while phone makers and point-of-sale terminal vendors are including support for the technology in their latest devices. 
    Here are a few highlights from our recent coverage and stuff that has been covered elsewhere: 
    Some Final Thoughts
    Near Field Communication is all about making our daily interactions easier – easier to pay for goods and services, easier to use public transport, easier ticketing for events, easier to interact with businesses, easier to share data between devices. At the heart of the technology is its ease of use, increasing convenience rather than enabling something new.
    Most of the talk is focused on mobile payments and that has the potential to be a major driver of adoption. Many companies believe they can boost their average sale amounts by making payments easier and process customer transactions faster, while point-of-sale terminal vendors on the other hand are in for some big sales if contactless payments catch on. But as discussed above there are many other reasons for us users to want NFC too.
    Since NFC is based on open standards, different readers will be compatible with various types of NFC-enabled devices like cards, key fobs, or smartphones regardless of vendor. For mobile payments things might be a little more complicated, though. Businesses will have to choose which processing infrastructure to support -- as in PayPal, Google Checkout, Visa, MasterCard, and so on -- but may be hesitant to make any big investments until they know what platform their customers are likely to use. And the fight for dominion over mobile payments is just about to begin.
    It is estimated that one in five smartphones will feature NFC technology by 2014, or almost 300 million NFC-enabled smartphones in three year's time. It will be a while longer until we're able to ditch our keys, wallet, cards and more in favor of a single device to rule it all. And if it ever comes to that point, it remains to be seen if smartphones are the ideal vehicle to accomplish this. It may seem that way today due to their ubiquity, but beyond security concerns I wonder if I'll have to sleep on the porch in the event that my battery dies before coming home. Jokes aside, NFC is certainly a technology to keep our eyes on as it has the potential to bring a new level of convenience to many aspects of a typical person's daily life. Are you looking forward to it?
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    Constantine Cannon Says Cash Your Visa Antitrust Check by June 15 or it's "Worthless"

    Important Legal Notice Regarding the Visa Check/MasterMoney Antitrust Litigation
    April 21, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- The following statement is being issued by Constantine Cannon LLP regarding the In re Visa Check/MasterMoney Antitrust Litigation.
    As per Court order, the final date for class members to cash their outstanding checks from the December 2010 distribution is June 15, 2011.
    AFTER JUNE 15, 2011, ALL UNCASHED CHECKS WILL BE VOIDED AND RETURNED TO THE SETTLEMENT FUND so the FUNDS may be donated to charity.  THE Settlement administration will then be forever closed. There will be no additional distributions in this matter.
    If you or your company received a check in connection with this case and have not yet cashed it, you must do so by June 15, 2011.
    If you believe you should have received a check, you should immediately contact the Claims Administrator as follows:
    By visiting:
    By calling toll-free: 1 (888) 641-4437
    By mail: Visa Check/MasterMoney Antitrust Litigation
    c/o The Garden City Group, Inc.
    P.O. Box 9000-6014
    Merrick, NY 11566-9000
    SOURCE Constantine Cannon LLP

    Hacker named Hackett Caught with 675,000 Credit Card Accounts Pleads Guilty

    There once was a Hacker named Hackett...
    Ga. hacker caught with 675K credit card accounts
    (from Yahoo News at 4-22-2011)
    10 years in Prison...Can he hack it?
    A computer hacker from Georgia pleaded guilty Thursday to fraud and identity theft after authorities found more than 675,000 stolen credit card accounts on his home computers. Credit card companies have traced more than $36 million in fraudulent transactions to the accounts that were breached by Rogelio Hackett Jr., 26, of Lithonia, Ga. Court documents indicate that Hackett built a reputation for himself as a teenager in the hacking community and had been stealing account information for r... read more»

    Hacker Pleads Guilty To Credit Card Fraud; Faces 10 Years
    (from International Business Times at 22-4-2011)
    A hacker has pleaded guilty to trafficking in counterfeit credit cards and aggravated identity theft; which resulted in cumulative losses of $36 million. U.S. Secret Service agents found 675,000 stolen credit card numbers and related information in the computers and email accounts of Rogelio Hackett Jr., 26, of Lithonia, Ga. Hackett has agreed to take a plea charge and cooperate with authorities. According to the court filing, Hackett is not taking a plea in exchange for testimony about anyon... read more»

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    GoPayment for iPad Available from Intuit

    GoPayment App for iPad Now Available on the App Store

    Ring Up Credit Cards Sales Easily and Quickly No Matter Where You Are
    MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Intuit Inc. (Nasdaq:INTU) today announced that its iPad-optimized GoPayment app is now available on the App Store. GoPayment is a mobile payment app that lets anyone who sells a product or service get paid on the spot by easily and quickly processing credit cards.“Our new iPad app can help just about anyone who needs an easy and affordable way to process credit cards while on the go”
    This optimized version of the GoPayment app makes mobile payments easier with a new layout that takes full advantage of iPad's large, high-resolution display and Multi-Touch interface. It also includes new features such as the ability to add product photos, making it easier to find a product and complete a sale. GoPayment is also compatible with the free Intuit Credit Card Reader letting users save time by swiping credit cards instead of entering card data manually.
    “Our new iPad app can help just about anyone who needs an easy and affordable way to process credit cards while on the go,” said Chris Hylen, vice president and general manager of Intuit’s Payment Solutions division. “We definitely see iPad as a natural complement to our existing point of sale retail store solutions as more people look to process payments wherever they are – in a store, at an event or even at home.”
    New Features:
    In addition to the same features as the GoPayment app for iPhone, the GoPayment app for iPad lets users easily and quickly:
    • View orders on a large screen – Clearly view, navigate and create sales orders using GoPayment’s layout, which is optimized for iPad’s large, high-resolution display.
    • Find products with photos – Add photos of products or services so that it’s easier to find them and quickly make a saleNew search functionality also makes finding products easier.
    • Create orders on one screen – Simply tap an item from the product list and watch as it’s instantly placed into the order summary, which is on the same screen. GoPayment automatically calculates the total of items as they’re added, showing customers how much they owe for each selection.
    • Review past transactions in one spot –View the details of historical transactions all in one place with a new expandable screen.
    About GoPayment
    The GoPayment app is available for free from the App Store on iPad or at GoPayment offers no monthly fees and includes a free credit card reader. More information is available at
    About Intuit Payment Solutions
    Intuit is one of the largest small business payments processors in the U.S. It processes annually more than $17 billion in transactions for approximately 300,000 small businesses. Over the last 10 years, Intuit has helped small businesses get paid and improve cash flow with a complete family of end-to-end electronic payment solutions. This includes services to process credit cards, e-checks and online payments via a variety of channels including mobile devices, web and retail stores and integrated solutions such as QuickBooks.
    About Intuit Inc.
    Intuit Inc. is a leading provider of business and financial management solutions for small and mid-sized businesses; financial institutions, including banks and credit unions; consumers and accounting professionals. Its flagship products and services, including QuickBooks®Quicken® and TurboTax®, simplify small business management, payment and payroll processing, personal finance, and tax preparation and filing. ProSeries® and Lacerte® are Intuit's leading tax preparation offerings for professional accountants. Intuit Financial Services helps banks and credit unions grow by providing on-demand solutions and services that make it easier for consumers and businesses to manage their money.
    Founded in 1983, Intuit had annual revenue of $3.5 billion in its fiscal year 2010. The company has approximately 7,700 employees with major offices in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, India and other locations. More information can be found at
    Intuit, the Intuit logo, and QuickBooks, among others, are registered trademarks and/or registered service marks of Intuit Inc. in the United States and other countries.

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