IATA to Move on NFC Boarding Pass Standards in 2014; Won’t Mandate Secure Elements

NFC Times Exclusive: A set of guidelines from the NFC Forum and the International Air Transport Association may be another step toward eventual rollout of NFC-enabled boarding passes, but observers say the prospects for use of NFC technology in air travel remain up in the air.

At the heart of the matter is where to store boarding passes in smartphones–whether in a secure element, device memory or shunning NFC altogether for the tried-and-true bar code.

Google’s recent release of its NFC-based host-card emulation feature for its new Android 4.4 operating system version, which supports NFC payment, ticketing and other applications–including potentially boarding passes–in card-emulation mode without secure elements, adds yet another option for airlines.

The 58-page NFC Reference Guide for Air Travel recently released by the NFC Forum and IATA, provides an overview of NFC technology, the challenges and potential benefits for NFC-enabled boarding passes, as well as related NFC applications airlines and airports could introduce.  

The document, however, reveals little about how much support IATA has–if any–for using NFC technology to enable passengers to tap to board planes and use other air travel-related applications.

IATA will start to develop industry standards on NFC next year, Stéphan Copart, who heads strategy and simplifying the business, financial and distribution services transformation at IATA, confirmed to NFC Times.

But he made it clear that IATA, a trade group that represents 240 airlines worldwide, would not be requiring boarding passes be stored on secure elements, at least not for the foreseeable future. 

Words: 2,200 

Graphics:
Table with pros and cons for using NFC SIM, embedded chip, device memory (including host-card emulation) and 2D bar codes for storing boarding passes 

Among Topics Covered:
•IATA approach to NFC for boarding passes
•Prospects for secure element-based boarding passes
•Debate over power-off and battery-off scenarios
•Cost-benefit analysis for NFC-based air travel 

Sources Quoted:
• Stéphan Copart, head, strategy and simplifying the business, financial and distribution services, IATA
• Emmanuel Jamin, head, partnership development, Orange Group
• Renaud Irminger, lab director, SITA
•Paula Hunter, executive director, NFC Forum 

Among companies and organizations mentioned:
IATA
Orange
NFC Forum
SITA
Air France
Japan Airlines 

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