NFC Times Special Report, Part One: In a move with potentially far-reaching implications for the NFC industry, Google has built support for host-card emulation into its new Android operating system, which could enable payments and other “secure” applications without a secure element.
Google has made host-card emulation part of Android 4.4, dubbed KitKat, which it released late last week with its Nexus 5 smartphone. The NFC-enabled device is the first to support the new operating system version, and is not believed to pack an embedded secure element. It would be the second Nexus device in a row, after the refreshed Nexus 7 tablet released last summer, not to carry an embedded chip.
Google touts the host-card emulation support in Android 4.4 as offering “secure NFC-based transactions” for payments, loyalty programs, access control, transit passes and other transactions in card-emulation mode, without the need to provision and manage secure elements, such as SIM cards or embedded chips–though it can’t be used with the still-popular transit card technology, Mifare Classic, or with such other proprietary contactless technologies as FeliCa.