United States

When founded in 1999, GlobalPlatform’s mission was mainly to clear the way for multiapplication smart cards by bringing together banks, card networks, merchants, telecommunications companies and others to set standards.

But multiapplication smart cards didn’t happen, at least not in any significant numbers.

The GP consortium then occupied itself with overseeing standards for the over-the-air downloads of toolkit applications and supporting data to SIM cards. GP interoperable software also found its way onto about half a billion banking and ID smart cards over the years.

But with the smart card and related industries gearing up for NFC, GP is again playing a central role in laying the groundwork for interoperable multiapplication platforms—this time on phones and other devices.

It formed a Mobile Task Force in 2007, and in 2008, it issued standards for using SIM cards as secure elements in NFC phones to store payment, transit ticketing and other secure applications. Among other things, GP software keeps the applications on the SIM securely separate and attempts to define how those applications will be managed over the air. It is working on specifications for test tools and certification of these standards.

But SIMs are not the only secure chips that service providers might use to store their applications in NFC phones. They might put them on embedded chips. But the question of owns the chips and keys for the applications could create problems for the NFC ecosystem. So GP is coming up with a new issuing model for the embedded chips and also for secure micro-SD cards that might store the apps. The SD cards could either come with their own radio antenna or possibly link to one built into the phones.

GP is also attempting to work out standards to deal with issues brewing over the user interface for the NFC applications. The standards, for example, could determine how consumers at the point of sale choose from a digital wallet full of payment applications and how they might activate and deactivate applications. So the organization is developing a contactless registry service, or CRS.

GP is working with other organizations on these specifications, including French telcos and banks, which have already specified how they think consumers should use payment, loyalty and other applications on NFC phones. These French specifications might not gain adoption from such international payment schemes as Visa, so GP is helping to smooth potential conflicts.

GP’s membership is still somewhat slanted toward the payments industry, including Visa Inc., along with other major payment card brands, such as MasterCard Worldwide and, more recently, American Express. Most other members are vendors.

Of course, GP’s renewed role in standardizing the platforms for multiapplication smart card chips in NFC phones depends on whether NFC really gets rolled out by mobile operators and banks, along with other service providers.

But if the multiapplication mantra being chanted by NFC’s backers turns out to ring as hollow as it did with smart cards, it certainly won’t be GP's fault.

Key figures: 

GlobalPlatform-Compliant SIMs for OTA Downloads
2.2 billion (2009)

GlobalPlatform-Compliant Smart Cards 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Banking and ID Cards 75 120 265 305 440

60 (As of Nov. 2009)

Key NFC Personnel: 
Kevin Gillick, executive director
Gil Bernabeu, technical director
Sébastien Tormos, chairman
Marc Kekicheff, vice chairman and Mobile Task Force leader
Last Updated: 
Nov 2009


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