Your phone is your credit card

In Digital Flash Media, microSD, Mobile Payment, SD on August 24, 2010 at 10:59 am
Mobile phone manufacturers market share in Q3-...

Image via Wikipedia

A handful of companies are pushing the case for the phone to be your payment medium. I am not talking about the likes of Obopay who primarily another level of middlemen between the money and the recipient. My focus is on companies miniaturizing antenna technology to fit in the microSD formfactor. The storage device now doubles as an NFC device. It draws power when placed in the microSD slot of the cell phone.

The 2008 market share looks really old but it is true that iPhone still comes under the ‘others’ portion of the world wide pie. An estimated 60% of the phones used in the US come with a microSD slot.

Tyfone, based in Portland, Oregon, aims to bring all your financial (and identity) data to your cell phone through their microSD based ecosystem. Their selling point stems from the disparity between mobile carriers and financial institutions in the US. This is best explained by their CTO, Siva Narendra, in the video below.

Tyfone’s SideTap SD memory cards have undergone extensive and successful trials with multiple partners over the last 18 months. In the coming months, consumers will be able to purchase SideTap MicroSD memory cards and use them at major retailers. Tyfone will soon announce partnerships that will make the first wave of this important payment technology available for consumers, financial institutions and retailers.

DeviceFidelity, on the other hand, has focussed on becoming the credit card equivalent for NFC enabled storage devices. They have already partnered with Visa to provide In2Pay solutions to all types of cellphones including the iPhone. CEO, Deepak Chain, cited In2Pay’s open architecture as the hassle free approach to introduce mobile payment programs into the existing infrastructure.

Bank of America now provides a microSD based VISA card. It is not clear who the technology implementer is.

Wireless Dynamics were the first to get into the development of SD based NFC solutions but slipped out of my radar in recent times. A quick visit to their website identifies them as a design and manufacturing group. Probably that’s where their strengths are.

Your memory card will soon be your credit card and will enjoy their best days before NFC becomes native to cellphones. Either way, loosing your phone will become akin to loosing your wallet. Take care.


Case of the Photo Kiosk Virus

In Digital Photo Kiosks on August 19, 2010 at 8:48 pm
Snapshot of a Front USB port

Image via Wikipedia

I still remember the time when we delivered the first driver and firmware solution for a photo card reader – Smart Media or SSFDC was the media used. The company’s CEO proudly carried it around and tried copying personal pictures from the media to his computer. Something went wrong. Forget the fact that he was unable to copy, he lost all the vacation pictures he already had on his media. We were able to restore the media but not the pictures. Granted it was beta software and hardware but lesson learnt all around. Lessons to be precise – those of Backup and Write-protect.

There is a piece of news originating from Australia that underlines the need for write protection in public kiosks. A FujiFilm kiosk at a BigW store managed to infect a USB thumbdrive with the Trojan.Poison-36 virus. It is possible that the kiosk got infected through a prior user’s medium. This was passed on to subsequent users. It appears to be a costly oversight and it is not clear if it is the store owner or kiosk vendor’s decision to 1) not have write protect feature on and 2) not have anti virus software enabled. I know of some kiosks disabling AVS for thumbdrives to save time. It could be the case here as well.

The customer affected by this issue has posted a blog entry. I really like the comment from one Katie – she works for rival Kodak. Talk about ‘a Kodak moment’.

Truth is I have worked on both FujiFilm and Kodak kiosks in the US and they both have write protect enabled by default. In the case of FujiFilm’s ADPC line of kiosks, the USB front port is often disabled to prevent mischief. For ADPC 5, my team developed a patent pending solution to protect USB front ports from doing anything other than transferring pictures from drive to system. We have also provided a secure solution where selective writes are allowed under certain conditions. The onus is on the system integrators and the store owners to ensure that these protective features are enabled.

Lifehacker gives some simple tips for end users to avoid these issues. Resorting to legacy CD or DVD drives is a good band-aid but time consuming. Using a SD media with its write protect switch enabled (as suggested in one comment) is probably the simplest solution. However, as I’ve noted there, this solution won’t work when there is a genuine requirement to write back to the medium. So, the onus is on having anti virus protection and system supplied write protect solution.

Eye-Fi Cards

In Digital Flash Media, SD on August 19, 2010 at 10:10 am

It wasn’t exactly love at first sight for me when it comes to Eye-Fi. Judging by the fact that they were causing access issues in one of my reader designs. Still, I got the chance to try them as part of the testing process. Once the main issue (frequency related – Eye-Fi operate at higher frequencies (but within specifications) than regular SD media) was solved, I got to play around with the media. It’s intrinsic uses were evident but I was a little speculative to begin with. The solution isn’t entirely wireless – you still needed the single slot reader shipped with the media to install the applications – but still pretty impressive once you get past installation.



News is that Target will now start selling Eye-Fi cards. Read Eye-Fi cards come to Target.

Eye-Fi cards provide a great retro fit option for cameras that do not have wireless technologies in built to go wireless. They are available only in the standard SD form factor as of today. Other media types are not as popular to warrant a wireless option. microSD formfactor is a possibility and given that they are used only in mobile devices that are already wifi enabled makes a second antenna-bearing media redundant and might also lead to interference if not done properly.

Product comparison is available at the Eye-Fi site.

They now have the first whiff of competition in the form of Toshiba. Toshiba’s plans are to make this a standard which is good news from a holistic perspective. The image at hints at peer to peer sharing meaning you can share pictures between cameras if so desired. This is now available only in the ProX2 version of Eye-Fi I believe.

Between NFC and WiFi, the applications for wireless enabled SD cards are ever increasing.