Published in Editorials

Tech press thought NFC was not a big deal… Until Apple does it.

by on05 September 2014 4950 times

If there is one thing I do not like it is the way that some members of the technical press show their bias. This morning, while I was trying to have a nice cup of coffee, I had to stomach several articles that seem to feel that NFC (near field communication) is now the wave of the future simply because it is rumored that Apple will have it in their next devices. This despite the fact that some of these same reporters claimed it was nothing when everyone else did it years ago.

The concept of the Google Wallet (complete with NFC component) was panned as being a silly idea. Now that Apple is working on it, well it is the next best thing. I have seen comments that are just plain stilly in regards to how much NFC and mobile payments will change our lives now. Mobile payments and NFC have been on the market in phones for a very long time. Nokia was actually one of the first companies to do that with mobile apps that would allow you to make payment for public transport. I can remember having a mobile app that would let me order and pay for pizza with a few taps on my screen. Let’s say this once again, NFC, mobile payments, RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) payment systems attached to mobile devices are nothing new.

So what about the rumors that Apple will put NFC into their wearable? Well, again this is the same thing. It has been done before. Perhaps not to the full extent of having it in a smart watch, but Disney and other companies actually have an RFID device that you can refill with money for use in their parks. You wear it around your wrist and that is how you gain entry and pay for things in the park.

Putting all of the been-there-done-that aside we still have security to look at. NFC and RFID are not the most secure functions on the planet. There are hundreds of reported cases where someone has captured information from phones, room keys, credit cards, and other RFID and NFC devices by using a reader and readily available software. The reason these tactics are successful is a combination of factors that also include the assumption that the end user will follow best practices in their usage. In something like a watch that is exposed all the time there is a higher chance of someone reading the NFC information and gaining access to your information.

Sadly Apple is not known for their security measures. Over the years researchers have uncovered serious flaws in the way they operate their services and even in their core technology. We have seen flaws that include leaving the encryption keys in plain text inside the file system all the way up to not having proper safeguards against dictionary attacks. We do not imagine that Apple will be any different with their implementation of NFC for payments and home automation. I will hope that I am wrong on this, but history is does not make the outlook good.

When you read about everything the rumored iWatch can do and how Apple putting NFC in their iWatch and the next iPhone is a game changer, take a minute to search and see what that reporter had to say about NFC in competing phones when they hit the market. You might be surprised to find that the euphoria over NFC was not there when it was done years ago by Apple’s competition. Simply put, don’t buy the hype.

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Last modified on 05 September 2014
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