Nexus S Enables the NFC Secure Element

Sprint watcher Sprintfeed has dug up an announcement flyer for a July 11th update for the Nexus S that includes enabling the secure features of the existing NFC capabilities on the phone. The new capabilities brings the world one step closer to the Google Wallet.

From Google:

“Google Wallet has been designed for an open commerce ecosystem. It will eventually hold many if not all of the cards you keep in your leather wallet today. And because Google Wallet is a mobile app, it will be able to do more than a regular wallet ever could, like storing thousands of payment cards and Google Offers but without the bulk. Eventually your loyalty cards, gift cards, receipts, boarding passes, tickets, even your keys will be seamlessly synced to your Google Wallet. And every offer and loyalty point will be redeemed automatically with a single tap via NFC.”

Nexus S update Enables the NFC Secure Element

Google has been out in front of the NFC “revolution” with early developer releases and tactics aimed at getting users comfortable with the behavior and benefits of using NFC on their phones. With the new update it seems like the world is one step closer to being able to use the Google Wallet.

SO what does the Nexus S hold for the future?  Mobile and NFC experts Dr Gerald Madlmayr and Christian Kantner take the device apart and talk about the findings in a recent article at Near Field Communications World.

The PN65N with embedded secure element in Google's Nexus S.

From NFCW:

“The Nexus S comes with a PN65N from NXP. This chip is a combination of the PN544 NFC controller and an embedded SmartMX secure element. You can see this very well in the picture in the Nexus S teardown at iFixit.com.

“But what about the software?” you might ask. Now, the good thing about Android is that everything is open source. This is also true for NXP’s FRI, which is a library in the Android Git repository. There you can follow the implementation of the NFC stack and how it is glued into the operating system.

The FRI in Android

“The Forum Reference Implementation is a basic software stack that is responsible for managing the NFC chip through HCI (Host Controller Interface) commands. Android’s core and Symbian^3 are both implemented in C, so the software stack from NXP can be ported to both operating systems very well. The software stack features all necessary functionality for reader/writer mode, P2P/LLCP and card emulation using SWP or an embedded secure element.”

More on NXP’s FRI from NFC.CC:

“The FRI (Forum Reference Implementation) is NXP’s Software Stack for its NFC Chips, namely the PN544 and PN531. The code base is open source and part of Google’s Operating System Android. The FRI supports the different operating modes of the NFC chip for tag reading and writing, NFC peer-2-peer as well as card emulation. Also the SWP (Single Wire Protocol) implementation is part of the FRI. The FRI is the link between the native driver layer of the NFC chip and the Java Layer which can be used by developers. Hence the app developer has no access to the “pure” FRI functionality in his app on top.”

Do it yourself NFC apps:

“Download the source (actually from CyanogenMod 7 to have the full build environment for the new Nexus S), make the appropriate changes to the code, recompile everything and put it back into the phone and it works — Nexus S supports card emulation and SWP!

Then we developed an Android app which we call “The Secure Element Manager” that gives the user full control over the secure elements in the phone as well as the NFC chip.

We are now able to fully control the PN65N from an Android app. Very nice, but not enough; we need more: an API for accessing the UICC (secure element) from an Android API.”

NFC hardware architecture in the Nexus S.

NFCW goes on to think about the ramifications of the open hardware and software provided by Google’s Adnroid NFC implementation: “One of the most interesting questions that pops up now is “so why do all those companies (NXP, G&D, TrustedLogic) contribute to Google’s OS for free?” Well, for NXP it is quite clear: They earn money selling NFC chips for the mass market and have a strong interest in making sure that system integration is very easy for phone manufacturers.”

Open commerce ecosystem

Google’s commitment to open sourcing the NFC capabilities and not being afraid of getting out in front of NFC integration could mean an early dominance in the mobile commerce ecosystem that requires other potential players to partner instead of be able to build their own platforms.

About Daniel Davenport

Daniel is a digital media executive with internet and broadcast experience. Daniel is currently the executive strategy director at THINK Interactive.

3 Responses to “Nexus S Enables the NFC Secure Element”

  1. Very interesting article.

    I watched a video of two Nexus S phones sending each other data using Android Beam. Can a Nexus S transfer “dynamic” data (e.g. an email address, or phone number) to another device (not another Nexus S) such as a NFC tag reader? If so, what kind of reader can accept this data from the Nexus S?

  2. I am interesting in this topic. how do i install the application that is called “Security Element Manage”.

  3. May I simply say what a relief to find somebody who truly knows what they are discussing online. You definitely know how to bring an issue to light and make it important. More and more people really need to read this and understand this side of the story. I can’t believe you’re not more popular given that you definitely possess the gift.

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