Brigham Young University to test new NFC microSD solution

Students at BYU-Idaho will begin testing an NFC microSD solution from Rfinity in September.

SECURE: RFinity's system brings together encryption, one-time tokens, NFC and microSD cards
SECURE: RFinity\’s system brings together encryption, one-time tokens, NFC and microSD cards

A new microSD-based NFC solution from US start-up Rfinity is to undergo its first field trial at Brigham Young University-Idaho in September.

Students equipped with the Rfinity microSD solution will initially be able to use their phones to make purchases at the campus bookshop. Plans then call for the project to be expanded from January 2010 to include up to 1,000 participants and additional functions, including peer-to-peer transactions and others that will be developed by Brigham Young students.

Rfinity was founded by two ex-US Department of Energy mobile security experts, Aaron Turner and Steve McCown, who worked together at the DoE’s Idaho National Labs on analysing mobile phone security vulnerabilities — and which led the pair to investigate ways of enabling mobile phones to securely handle mobile payments. Backers include Gideon Yu, former CFO of both Facebook and YouTube, and Rajiv Dutta, former president of eBay Marketplaces and an EVP of eBay Inc.

The core of Rfinity’s technology rests, as the founders’ backgrounds might suggest, with its encryption technology, rather than with the microSD card itself. This enables a secure one-time token to be generated each time a transaction takes place and ensures that a user’s credit card details never need to be transmitted, even in an encrypted form.

Although the company has a patent for its microSD-based solution, the token technology could equally well also be built into the secure element of an NFC phone, Steve McCown, Rfinity’s CTO, told NFCW.

In fact, the company’s ultimate goal is to become what McCown describes as a ‘Mobile Open Encryption Platform’, an underlying combined hardware and software encryption technology that other companies could use as a platform on which to build their own solutions.

One reason for the choice of a microSD solution comes from the founders’ experiences at the DoE, McCown explained. Given his knowledge of cellphone vulnerabilities, he says, the idea of a SIM-based NFC system in which the mobile operator is in control is not one that fills him with confidence. “Here in the States, the telco always seems to get my bill wrong,” he told NFCW. “So there’s an access control issue that I’m not entirely comfortable with.”

The Brigham Young University field trial will be “the first public shakedown of the technology,” says McCown, giving Rfinity the opportunity to tweak the technology based on feedback from the trial, ahead of a planned commercial launch in mid-2010.

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