Nokia Tries Out More Secure Tag System for Loyalty
Nokia has introduced an app supporting NFC-based check-ins on social-networking site foursquare and is testing a tag system that it says could provide more security for rewards and other loyalty programs.
The foursquare app is available in Nokia’s Ovi store and will run on any of the handset maker’s six NFC-enabled Symbian phones and one MeeGo device supporting NFC, said the Finnish phone maker.
Nokia tried out the app with 230 foursquare tags at last week’s Nokia World conference and exhibition in London. Users could get higher-value gifts, including a chance to win Nokia smartphones and Bluetooth headsets, if they tapped at Nokia demo booths and then at a vending machine.
While there are few foursquare tags deployed at merchant locations or other establishments outside of demos, the social networking site has expressed interest in the technology as a way to make it easier for users to check in. NFC also could provide more precise positioning than GPS or other network-based geolocation. Foursquare supported an NFC demo at the Google I/O developer’s conference in May.
The Nokia foursquare app is available for the handset maker's Symbian-based NFC phones, the C7, 600, 700, 701, Oro and 603, along with the N9 MeeGo handset. And Nokia probably will provide the app for Windows Phone after it introduces its first NFC-enabled Windows Phone devices, expected during the first part of next year. But Nokia would not discuss that. Microsoft earlier this month confirmed it would support NFC in Windows Phone, reportedly by next year.
Nokia CEO Stephen Elop mentioned the NFC functionality on the Symbian and MeeGo handsets during his keynote speech at Nokia World. He mainly used the speech to introduce Nokia's first Windows Phone devices, which do not support NFC.
“Speaking of NFC, seven of our devices now include NFC, making Nokia the leader in open NFC,” he said. “People are tapping their NFC-enabled Nokia devices on taxi stands to call for a ride, on speakers to listen to music and foursquare signs to check in at locations...”
The handset maker's open NFC concept promotes applications that do not require a secure element, such as an embedded chip or SIM card.
Nokia, however, went beyond basic NFC-based foursquare check-ins with part of its demo at Nokia World. It tested higher-value rewards with more secure NFC tags using its authentication server and “proof-of-presence” system.
The system, developed with Finland-based IT services firm Tieto, can provide “verified check-ins” using NFC tags that that are very difficult to clone, in this case supplied by U.S.-based Verayo, said Nokia.
The extra security is needed to tie rewards to check-ins, said Damien Balsan, Nokia’s head of NFC business development for industry collaboration markets.
The problem with basic NFC check-ins using simple tags is that users could clone the tags or program new tags to spoof the system. For example, a user might be at home tapping a cloned foursquare tag, but the merchant believes the customer is checking in at his store and might mistakenly give him a reward.
“It’s showing how you can do proof of presence and do stronger loyalty and rewards,” Balsan told NFC Times. “It’s really proving the presence, not using geofencing. It can add a lot of value.”
The Verayo technology uses minute imperfections that are unavoidable in the semiconductor manufacturing process, but that make each chip unique. The company says it uses these unique characteristics to authenticate individual chips, even the tiny chips in NFC tags, without the expense of storing and managing cryptographic keys on the chips.
Avoiding this type of public key cryptography in tags also avoids the need to put extra software on NFC phones, said Balsan, who adds that the Verayo technology is only one option for increasing tag security.
The Verayo technology supports the NFC Forum standard tag types, he said. It works with tags from various suppliers.
Nokia said its system for verified check-ins also could be developed for use with other location-based mobile-commerce platforms, such as Groupon or Gowalla.
And with the extra security, tags not only could allow merchants and advertisers to deliver more valuable gifts and rewards over the network to consumers who tap their phones on tags, it might also support some types of cloud-based payment, said Balsan.
“Instead of putting security on the phone, you’re putting security in the tag, and you do authentication through the cloud,” he said.
Of course, any rewards or payment launched by tags would require a reliable mobile network connection to communicate with authentication servers. And it’s unlikely major payment networks, such as Visa Inc. and MasterCard Worldwide, would support this type of cloud-based payment without the consumer’s credentials stored on a secure element.
Only about 30 of the foursquare tags at Nokia World supported Nokia’s proof-of-presence system using Verayo technology.
UPM RFID supplied all the other foursquare tags, which would also respond to taps from NFC phones supporting other operating systems, such as Google’s Android-based Nexus S.