Google has found a way to circumvent carrier restrictions on its mobile wallet by introducing support for Host Card Emulation in the latest version of its Android operating system, effectively removing the need for access to the telco-controlled Secure Element.
Google's ambitions for its mobile wallet have been hampered in the US by the refusal of key mobile carriers to introduce support for the search giant's payments applications on the Secure Element in the NFC chip. Verizon in particular has flatly refused to introduce support for Google Wallet in its firmware, citing 'security' precautions. A more obvious ulterior motive lies in boosting the chances of the telco's own Isis consortium NFC play.
Now, with Android 4.4, Google introduces new platform support for secure NFC-based transactions through Host Card Emulation (HCE), for payments, loyalty programmes, card access, transit passes, and other custom services.
With HCE, any app on an Android device can emulate an NFC smart card, letting users tap to initiate transactions with an app of their choice - no provisioned secure element (SE) in the device is needed. Apps can also use a new Reader Mode to act as readers for HCE cards and other NFC-based transactions.
Android HCE emulates ISO/IEC 7816 based smart cards that use the contactless ISO/IEC 14443-4 (ISO-DEP) protocol for transmission. These cards are used by many systems today, including the existing EMVCO NFC payment infrastructure.
Android HCE requires an NFC controller to be present in the device. "Support for HCE is already widely available on most NFC controllers, which offer dynamic support for both HCE and SE transactions," says the search giant. "Android 4.4 devices that support NFC will include Tap & Pay for easy payments using HCE."