Wireless communication is critical and plays a key role to the Natural Security user experience in payments. The use of mid-range wireless technology means operations and payments can safely rely on a device containing personal information that does not have to be manipulated by the user.
From this standpoint, one of the key elements in Natural Security’s standard is the implementation of the Wireless Personal Area Network (WPAN) standard [CORE4/V4.01] for communication between the Wireless Biometric Intelligent Reader (WBIR) and the user’s Wireless Personal Device (WPD).
The latest version of the specifications optimize WPD energy consumption, unlocking exciting prospects for integrating Natural Security’s standard in wearables. Integration of BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) into some devices has already been achieved, preparing the next version of WPAN specifications.
As we reach a turning point, Joël Chevillard, the CTO at Natural Security Alliance, offers his views on the opportunities opened up by this development.
An interview with Joël Chevillard, CTO, Natural Security Alliance
The WPAN defines how the user’s personal device and the acceptance terminal (e.g. POS, ATM) communicate. What communication protocols can be used with this standard?
One of the essential characteristics of our approach is that it does not require users to handle their device, which contains all the data and applications needed to authenticate a transaction. In 2008, the options available to implement this principle were limited because we were looking for a communication technology with a range of 1.5 meters. We focused on the IEEE 802.15.4 standard (also adopted by ZigBee) because the Bluetooth technology available at the time would not have allowed us to achieve our objectives for several reasons:
- It was limited to a maximum of seven objects (whereas in a lineup many more devices and users may be connected).
- It used too much energy, which means users would have had to recharge their device frequently.
- The connection time was too long, especially given the transaction time expected for proximity payments.
The 802.15.4 standard used in ZigBee Alliance protocols has existed for years. It is a future-proof technology that has been successfully used in the aviation , medical industries, and in home automation.
What are the advantages of Natural Security’s implementation of 802.15.4?
The new specifications enable 802.15.4 to manage multiple personal devices communicating with multiple check-out lines. It is therefore suited for real situations found in real lineups, for example at the supermarket or a movie theater.
By improving energy management, it also ensures our standard remains form factor-independent, opening the door to implementation in new form factors (e.g. bracelets, tokens) and new formats.
What opportunities around wireless Communication in payments do you see for Natural Security in 2015?
We’re currently fine-tuning our use of Bluetooth Low Energy, which offers the significant advantage over 802.15.4 of being integrated in the latest generation of smartphones, whether iOS, Android or Windows.
The latest version of Bluetooth, BLE 4.1, will open new horizons, even though some work remains to enable many-to-many communication between master and slave devices. BLE seems to be the leading technology for connected devices.
What impact will this have on Natural Security?
The adoption of BLE will have a limited impact on existing Natural Security specifications. We won’t need to rewrite the specs, even though it is likely that we will establish some new implementation specifications. We will, however, need to verify that certain distinguishing features of our standard, including the non-traceability of users, remain intact.
For Natural Security, BLE will greatly facilitate penetration into the mobile market. So BLE actually seems to be a facilitator for deployment of the Natural Security standard.
What’s more, mobile phones will not be the only devices affected. The implementation of BLE continues to spread with the growth of another major trend: connected devices dedicated to a specific use. For example, distributors such as Amazon are launching devices dedicated to ordering goods, and elsewhere devices for monitoring physical activity are also being developed.