If you are like me, you must love all this new technology that allows for quick and easy use of things like our credit cards and debit cards by just taping them. The technology NFC (Near field communications) give us this capability to just tap and pay, the convenience makes it so easy to make a quick payment on the run. Problem is there is a dark side of the technology of course, we have been hearing the stories of people walking past you on the street or on the subway with a NFC reader and stealing all your cards from your wallet all unknowing to you. I remember hearing a story of a lady that was going to make a payment using an NFC card and somehow a card inside her purse (almost 2 feet away) triggered instead. The wrong card was charged for the transaction but then she paid again using the right card. So should we stop using NFC? Some people say it is worth the risk others say its crazy to take the risk with your money or even your identity.
The problem with NFC is directly related to its convenience, the chip inside the card is always in a state of ready to be read, all you have to do is bring it close enough to a reader and it will send its information out. If there was some way we could turn off the NFC chip until we need them, then this would fix the problem. The question is, “how do we do this?” Some solutions that I have seen are things like NFC sleeves for a card that the banks give out. What they do is just block all radio signals while in it, also know as a faraday cage. This is a good idea but takes away from the convenience of NFC, do you really want to put all your cards in a NFC sleeve? There are a few NFC blocking wallets/cases out there but again this forces you to change how you have done things for the last 20 years. We need a solution that does not require the user to get a new purse or wallet or inconvenience the user in any way.
Personally I think the problem lies in the card, the circuit inside is always on. What if we could break that circuit and turn it on only when required? It cannot be mechanical like a switch as it could break down and malfunction. We need something that will stand up to the normal wear and tear a card goes through daily, being sat on, crushed in a wallet, water etc. I think the answer lies in us, yes I want use to use our body to complete the circuit! If you have ever looked at how most keyboards function, you will notice it is just a grid of many broken paths. In the locations where the keys will press the paths come together and almost touch. When you press a key down it touches both sides of the path, completing the circuit. This is called a dome switch in keyboards. I want to use the same technology but instead of a key we would use our thumb.
Here is how it would work:
This is what the card circuit would like: (Left) circuit inside the card, (Right) What the card would look like to people
- You would take your card out and there would be an exposed area of the card that would be the size of a thumb that looks like the picture below.
- See how the paths almost touch and are so close but are not connected at all, by placing your thumb on this area you would be touching both sides of the path.
- When you bring your card close to the card reader your thumb would allow the small amount of current that is required to power the chip to pass through it and to the other side to complete the circuit.
- The chip would power up and send the information to the reader
- When you removed your thumb from the exposed area the circuit would be broken, making the card unreadable.
People would use their cards in the exact same way as they always would. No extra thought or action would be required then what the user normally does to make a payment without NFC. This would solve the problem of RFID being always on, by turning it off and in my opinion making the card 100 times safer to use!
© Caspan 2013