A new kind of phone cards

NTT DoCoMo has just introduced a new phone, the P903i, which includes interesting new security features, as mentioned in a Wired News article. The security feature that interests us here is a card that people can keep in their handbag or backpack. Before any use, the phone etablishes a wireless connection of some kind to the card; if the card is not there, the phone locks itself. Since it is possible to keep the card as far as 40 meters away from the phone, NFC is not the technology used. Nevertheless, this feature looks really nice, as it introduces many opportunities for security.

The main opportunity is here that a security application can be split in two parts, one on the phone, and one on that physically separate card, which could perfectly host a smart card core (with Java Card, naturally), and many other applications. Here are a few examples of applications that use similar kinds of cards:

  • They have been used as highway toll passes for years.
  • More recently, some car manufacturers have used similar systems for keyless entry systems (I carry one around all the time, best gadget on my Scenic).

Of course, the range of all these cards is much shorter than that of the DoCoMo card. Nevertheless, this looks like an interesting next platform.

Of course, it is not perfect. If it becomes too common, thieves will know that they need this “other” part in order to exploit a stolen phone, and they will ensure that they have it. But un the meantime, it can work perfectly.

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