The beginning of the end of smart cards?


I’ve been waiting for this kind of announcement to be made for a while, and though I don’t have a link for you, a press release came across my desk yesterday that shows the first major commitment by a security manufacturer to allow people to use their phones as smart cards.

Check it out:


I’m not sure about the weird capitalization issues going on there, and I suppose I could fix it, but I’m on the road and slightly lazy this morning. Regardless, this is cool. If the great goal is eliminating and consolidating credentials, and I think we can all agree that no one wants five different cards hanging from a lanyard around their neck, this is a step in the right direction.

Your phone is your smart card. How cool would that be? Do you go anywhere without your phone? I don’t. I sleep with my iPhone under my pillow! (Note: That is an exaggeration for effect. I do not actually sleep with my phone under my pillow every night. Only on Tuesdays. Or when I have to wake up early or something.)

IRVINE, Calif. and AIX-EN-PROVENCE, France – July 13, 2010 – HID Global, trusted leader in solutions for the delivery of secure identity, and INSIDE Contactless, a leading provider of advanced, open-standard contactless chip technologies, today announced they have extended their long standing partnership to bring market-leading iCLASS access control and identity credentials to near-field communications (NFC) mobile phones. Embedding iCLASS virtual credentials into NFC mobile phones will enable potential substitution of numerous plastic cards for a variety of commercial and consumer identity applications, including not only physical access control, but also secure PC log on, time and attendance monitoring, equipment and material checkout, authorized access to office equipment and manufacturing machinery, private label retail payments, prepaid transit passes, and customer loyalty and membership programs.

So, obviously, this is a press release, and densely worded and kind of hard to wrap your head around. The first sentence should have been: HID has partnered with INSIDE Contactless to make your phone your smart card.

Also, however, think about what this means for HID. I imagine they sell a crap-load of plastic cards, which probably have a nice little margin attached to them. And what is HID saying here: Get ready to never buy any more plastic cards! That is the exact opposite of what many in this industry have been trying to do: Hold onto the past. HID is looking forward into a world of secure identity, where identity may eventually be the thing you want most in the world to keep secure, and saying there’s going to be a new way to do access control, etc., so let’s everybody jump on board. This is a good thing.

“The ability to support iCLASS virtual credentials within a mobile phone opens the door to a new universe of exciting applications, and this unprecedented capability will be available with the microread® NFC controller from INSIDE Contactless,” said Charles Walton, executive vice president of payments for INSIDE Contactless. “iCLASS has become a universal identity credential with many applications beyond physical access control, and microread’s unique iCLASS capabilities are a powerful differentiator which we will be able to offer to our mobile handset customers.”

Now who knows what an NFC controller is, and which phones this will actually work on, etc. Those are the details. And maybe any kind of adoption of this kind of thing is years in the future, but it’s definitely where I, as a consumer, want to go.

Just used the boarding pass on the phone feature from Continental for the first time. Let me tell you that’s a whole lot of awesome. No stupid piece of paper to put in your teeth when you’re taking your shoes and jacket off? Sign. Me. Up.

Same thing here: No stupid hotel card key for me to lose at the baseball game and then have to go to the front desk with my tail between my legs to ask for another one? Absolutely.

No more wallet full of credit cards to carry around in my pocket? That’s probably a ways off, but would be all kinds of terrific, too. Of course, when I drop my phone in the lake, as I will eventually do, I will be screwed beyond all belief, but that’s a different matter…

“We’re pleased to be able to extend our partnership with INSIDE because we both realize there is a tremendous opportunity for NFC and iCLASS virtual credentials to transform the corporate mobile phone, one that could even spill over into adjacent markets as the use of iCLASS credentials moves into more consumer-oriented applications,” said Dr Tam Hulusi, senior vice president at HID Global. “iCLASS-enabled mobile phones can be used just like traditional iCLASS contactless credentials with an HID iCLASS reader, adding new levels of convenience and flexibility, and with added new application features.”

Right on. Now just get your channel on board with reselling it and making a pantload of money and we’re off and running.