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iCarte Turns the iPhone Into an RFID Reader

Earlier we reported that the next generation of iPhone might have an RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) reader built in, if rumors prove true. Well, there’s no need to wait that long, if near-field communications (NFC) is what you’ve got a hankerin’ for. Wireless Dynamics has announced a device called the iCarte that will add both RFID and NFC capabilities to the iPhone.

The device adds functionality to the iPhone via the dock connector, to which it connects without adding too much bulk or without being too much of an eyesore. In fact, it looks like the iCarte’s designers went out of their way to make sure the add-on looks like it’s a natural extension of the iPhone itself, rather than an apparent third-party accessory.

A chip embedded in the iCarte turns your iPhone into a portable electronic wallet, able to process contactless payments. It can also transmit any information it receives directly to enterprise databases using Wi-Fi or 3G network connections, so that orders and purchases can be automatically input into your company’s home server. Of course, in order to use the iCarte, you’ll need to be using iPhone OS 3.0, since only the latest major software update supports dock accessory connectivity.

The iCarte also has a mini-USB port to allow for pass-through charging and syncing, so you won’t have to constantly remove and replace the device, and it comes in both black and white, in case fashion is a concern of yours. To be clear, while Wireless Dynamics does talk about business applications, it looks like the iCarte’s functionality is aimed primarily at people on the consumer end of the retail equation:

iCarte has an embedded smart-chip that can be configured as debit, credit, pre-paid and loyalty cards, for secure contactless transactions. iCarte can also read NFC Smart Posters, download or upload electronic coupons, tickets or receipts. iCarte is ideal for iPhone users who want to use their iPhones for fast and secure contactless payments, transit payments, loyalty rewards, checking balances, top-up, discovering new services from smart posters or kiosks and exchanging information with other NFC phones.

iCarte’s web site is devoid of information regarding an official release date or pricing for the receiver, although it does offer contact info if you’re interested in finding out more about the tech. Presumably a companion iPhone application would be required for programming in payment card information, checking balances, etc., but as of yet no such app is available via the iTunes Store.

7 Responses to “iCarte Turns the iPhone Into an RFID Reader”

  1. I have tried to email this company a number of times for further information with no reply. Did they just put out a media release to test for market interest and waste our time or do they in fact have a product which is commercially viable and available.

    From what I have experienced to date their communication with possible clients leaves a lot to be desired.

    If anyone has any update info on this product I would love to know about it.


  2. crazyknarf

    There is one problem with this. HACKERS! Now all they have to do is go right up to you and scan your credit card with the RFID chip and they can clone as many cards as they like and you will not even know until it is too late.

    That is one of the bad things about using the RFID chip in the cards. The chip is always active. it sends out info all the time. As soon as any reader, it will steal away information and give it to some stranger we do not even know.

    If you see a symbol like ))) on your credit, check or debit cards. Ask your bank to get one without the RFID.

    If your bank says they can not. Get a Stronghold ID case for that card.
    I used a simple thing, call foil. wrap the card in foil and just keep one end open to get to your card. That way no hacker can get your card unless he/she is on top of you while you take the card out.

    My card info was stolen when it was being transmitted from a store to the bank computer. The thief never had to step foot in the store. The store used unsecure wireless to send the info and the thief was able to get the info with a wireless laptop.

  3. Sourceress

    Or possibly, in the future they’ll figure out a way to embed all this stuff in your body somewhere, power it off the current your body naturally generates, and wire it directly into your brain so you can surf the web, send email, and buy stuff all with a thought.

    The sf techno-geek part of me thinks that would be totally awesome. The more paranoid, privacy-loving, neo-hippy back-to-the-land part of me thinks there would probably be some *huge* privacy issues with this, at the very least.

    Bottom line: I love technology, but now that I’ve grown past my young, idealistic phase, I find myself looking at all this new technology and more and more asking questions, like “Who is collecting all the data this generates?” and “What are they doing with it?” and “If someone can remotely lock or unlock my car, or start my engine, or turn it off (as was done the other week by Onstar when a customer’s SUV was stolen), what guarantee do I have that this will not at some future point be used against me if those in power decide that I or my politics do not fall in line with the needs of the status quo?” I’m all for stopping bad guys, it’s just that I don’t trust the government (or any large corporation) to be the good guys, kwim?

  4. Or…just one thing to lose to simultaneously lock yourself out of your car, have no money and no cell to call anyone for help! Acccck! I have a feeling that in the future there will be a movement towards separating all components and calling it a feature! ;)