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NFC for public transport – how to deal with DESFire?

Today contactless technology is already widespread in public transport. NXP with its products MIFARE Plus (former Mifare Classic) and MIFARE DESFire is the most dominate player besides Sony with FeliCa which is commonly used in Asia.

Public Transport Operators such as RTA (UAE, Dubai) or Metro de Madrid (Espania) chose DESFire as it is fully compliant to ISO 14443-4 and its support for the industry standard crypto AES unlike NXP“s MIFARE Plus. When it comes to NFC and NFC enabled devices supporting card emulation, the Question is: How will these devices deal with DESFire? As DESFire is a product of NXP, for each SIM-Card, SD-Card or embedded secure element supporting DESFire NXP will receive license fees. This makes NFC enabled handset with embedded secure elements as well as SIM Card with DESFire support more expensive and therefore less attractive.

There are two alternatives:

First of all there is the possibility to implement a DESFire-like Java-Card applet. As both Java Card as well as DESFire fully support ISO 14443-4, online casino for a technical point its is an option. The Java Card applet in such a case will interpret the ISO commands for the reader in a way the hardware of the DESFire Chip would do. As the implementation in this case is in software and not hardware, the transaction speed will suffer. Depending on the quality of implementation as well as the Java Card chip used, these performance issues can be eliminated partly.

The other option, is to switch to an open standard: OSPT (Open Standard for Public Transport). This Industry consortium is driven by the major smartcard chip manufacturers and developers such as Samsung, Infineon or G&D. They want to provide a royalty free, open and secure product with can be used in public transport acting as a competitor to Mifare DESFIre. Singapore“s Land Transport Authority (LTA) is the first to agree to adopt the new standard called „Cipurse“. Cipurse will also be interoperable with the contactless ticking system in France – Calypso.

We have an update on this topic here.

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