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smart cards Could Bluetooth-enabled credit cards beat NFC? QBy Julien Happich uite unusual for Cartes & Secure Connexions, the exhibition grounds were fairly quiet on the opening day, Tuesday 17th of November, indeed a number of exhibiting companies and visitors had cancelled their travel plans to Paris after the recent terrorist attacks. Putting aside card printing services and mobile e-banking solutions, I found intriguing smart card implementations, not only integrating multiple buttons and displays as they first appeared some years ago, but for the first time, with a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) wireless connection on top of the pervasive NFC capability. Taiwan-based SmartDisplayer Technology Co. Ltd, a smart card assembler integrating various technologies such as e-paper displays, NFC and BLE chips together with a secure element, a flexible battery and a dome button, was exhibiting its SDPay multiplecards in-one solution. The use of an active-matrix gray-scale e-Paper display is bluffing (compared to the more traditional segmented displays). The 24.6x21.9mm display window supports any text or graphics, making it easy to read account balance and processes. A centrally located “next” button allows users to select through various credit-card options. While NFC would be typically used to tap on payment terminals, the Bluetooth link allows the card to communicate with a smartphone’s app, turning the multiple-wallet smartcard into a secure one-time-password (OTP) generator or a QRCode generator to secure online transactions. The card’s flexible battery is rechargeable using a dedicated wireless charger, with a rated lifespan of two years. Why would you want Bluetooth on a smart card, I asked SmartDisplayer Technology’s Chairman & CEO George Ou. Ou admitted such elaborate solutions come at a price which most SmartDisplayer Technology’s cards combining e-paper and bluetooth LE connectivity. The Cool Wallet card designed for CoolBitX. The e-paper displays on Jinco Universal’s cards, and below, an example of a Bluetooth-enabled smartcard. banks are unable to afford when issuing millions of cards. But there are some use cases for luxury branding and casinos where money is plentiful to seduce customers, the CEO hinted. Recently the company partnered with Canadian company CoolBitX (whom Ou is also co- founder) to design the Cool Wallet, a mobile storage device for bitcoins. Through the company’s smartphone app, users can receive and manage their bitcoin addresses, securing transactions by sending a cardgenerated OTP to the smartphone via NFC or Bluetooth. The card is expected to retail for USD 100 by the end of the year. Cool Wallet can be paired with most smartphones, including Android and iPhones devices. Potentially, its features could extend beyond bitcoin storage to all payment options, and one interesting feature enabled by the Bluetooth radio link is proximity detection, configurable from 1 to 10 metres and setting off an SMS or ringing alert for if the card was left behind, separated from your smartphone. Taiwan-based smart card integrator Jinco Universal Co. Ltd was also exhibiting a Bluetooth LE-enabled card among its capabilities (including large e-paper displays and on-card finger-print authentication). Again, the market for such sophisticated implementations is not clear-cut as the BOM costs goes well beyond today’s smartcards, but the company certainly felt that adding BLE to its portfolio would possibly lure new customers. At least, it show how moore’s law and components’ commoditization can bring sophistication where you would least expect it. I just wonder when MEMS sensors will join the bandwagon (on the smartcard front). 18 Electronic Engineering Times Europe December 2015 www.electronics-eetimes.com


EETE DEC 2015
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