New smartSD cards could put digital wallet control back with e-commerce groups


Many new smartphones come with an NFC, or Near Field Communications, chip that lets the phone be used as a digital wallet. For security purposes, NFC transactions require a special authentication method and that can now be on a removable card. On Thursday, the SD Association announced a new standard for smartSD cards, a microSD memory card with a Secure Element for NFC transactions. The card can run wallet-like applets for digital payments when used with an NFC-enabled device.


Instead of having different physical smart cards, applets could take the place of plastic. Why carry a different card for your bank, your transit pass and a retailer’s loyalty program, when software applications can take the place of these? Consumers would benefit by carrying (and potentially losing) multiple cards and instead just carry their phone.

The SDA already supports microSD cards that have both the Secure Element and an NFC chip, but this new spec is designed for devices that already have an NFC chip inside them. This solution can be helpful for those that use multiple devices; transferring the smartSD card — and therefore, the Secure Element — can allow for several phones to be used as digital wallets. And it makes it easier for consumers to switch carriers: with the smartSD card, the Secure Element comes along for the ride.


Clearly, the SDA is trying to take advantage of the widespread use of cards built to its specifications. The group says that microSD cards account for 95 percent of all mobile memory card shipments and that 78 percent of all mobile phone shipments have a memory card slot. With the new card standard, the SDA hopes e-commerce applets are built to run on the new cards, taking control away from carriers and device makers, both of which have their own digital payment aspirations.


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