Softcard, the US carrier-backed NFC venture formerly known as Isis, won’t have access to the NFC support in the new iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and Apple Watch until 2015, a blog post by CEO Michael Abbott suggests — and, even then, it looks as though it won’t be via a conventional NFC-enabled SIM.
“We would like to let you know that we are actively working with Apple to enable Softcard on the iPhone in 2015 — using an integrated secure SIM-based hardware solution” Abbott says in the post.
“When our company was founded, our vision was to develop a simple wallet app that consumers could use on any device, anywhere with any card,” he adds. “To deliver on that promise, we selected NFC as the best technology that was secure, simple and open to innovation.
“We think that today’s announcement by Apple to support NFC is very significant and sets the stage for rapid scale adoption of mobile commerce.”
No further details on what “an integrated secure SIM-based hardware solution” might be, or any other aspects of Softcard’s work with Apple, are being made available by the company at this time, its public relations agency says.
The solution described by those carefully chosen words does not sound like a SIM, however, as that is removable, but it does sound like some sort of embedded technology — and an Apple patent application from 2011 may point the way to understanding the iPhone maker’s plans here.
The “Sim within” patent set out a way for a virtual SIM card to be built into an embedded secure element which could, in turn, be attached to an NFC controller chip.
The Apple concept is similar in nature to the NFC SIMs issued by mobile network operators bringing NFC to market around the world — except it is in reverse. In an NFC SIM, the NFC secure element sits inside the SIM, putting the carrier in overall control of a phone’s NFC functionality.
In Apple’s concept, the SIM sits inside the embedded secure element, putting the iPhone maker in overall control of the unit and bringing in a trusted service manager (TSM) to provision customer credentials onto the unit on a carriers’ behalf.
NFC World+ has asked both Apple and the GSMA for comment and/or confirmation and we will update readers as soon as we have a response.
• If any readers have any further information on Apple’s plans for carrier access to secure NFC services, please contact our editorial team or add a comment below.