BB10 And The Future Of Mobile Payments


All BB10 devices are NFC enabled; NFC is a short-range wireless technology which allows for two way communication between endpoints.  A typical use cause would be sharing contacts, photos, videos or files between two NFC enabled smartphones by touching them together, or bringing them into very close proximity of each other.  NFC, however, can be used for much more that just sharing photos.

According to ABI Research,

“Smartphones accounted for four out of five NFC devices shipped in 2013 but that market share will drop to under 60% in 2017 as NFC becomes widely adopted in computing products, peripherals, speakers, digital cameras, printers, domestic appliances and automotive products.  Overall, NFC was included in a total of 345m devices in 2013 with the greatest level of adoption being in mid-tier smartphones, where close to half of all devices are NFC-enabled.  This is to be expected as the high-tier smartphone category is heavily influenced by Apple, which remains the notable exception for NFC adoption.”

In June of 2013, Gartner reduced their projections for mobile NFC based transactions into 2017 by about 40% citing disappointing global NFC adoption in 2012, and pointing to issues with adoption for services such as Google Wallet and ISIS.  Citing the Gartner findings, Computerworld states that:

“For 2013, NFC-related transactions will make up only 2% of total mobile payment transactions, growing to 5% in 2017, Gartner said. Those percentages translate into about $4.7 billion for NFC-related payments globally in 2013, increasing to about $36 billion in 2017. In the previous Gartner forecast, the 2017 value of NFC payments was expected to reach an estimated $60 billion.”

Gartner’s Shen indicates while the North American has seen lower adoption of NFC payments, “transactions via mobile will jump by 53% in 2013 to reach $37 billion, up from $24 billion in 2012”.  The Yankee Group, however, is much more bullish than Gartner with respect to total mobile payments with NFC, forecasting $60.7 billion in global NFC transactions for all of 2013, increasing to $531 billion in 2017.  Computerworld also indicates that analysts project that “October 2015 could be a turning point for NFC many merchants in the U.S. are expected to upgrade point-of-sale terminals to accept EMV (Europay, MasterCard, Visa) smart card chip transactions, which will interoperate with NFC chips in phones.”  Notwithstanding the differing projections for NFC transactions, the BB10 line up of devices have been future proofed by coming equipped with the technology out of the box.

ABI Research, as noted above, points to competing solutions such as Apple’s iBeacon which incorporates Bluetooth Low Energy, BLE.  According to Wikipedia , “compared to “Classic” Bluetooth, BLE is intended to provide considerably reduced power consumption and cost while maintaining a similar communication range.”  If at this point you’re concerned that your BB10 device may be left out in the cold, you have nothing to fear as BB10, as well as Android and WP, support Bluetooth LE.  According to Mobile Payments Today, BestFit Mobile and Shelfbucks are piloting iBeacon based mobile shopping technology with major retailers.  BestFit’s technology integrates with the retailer’s POS system, and according to Shelfbucks’ CEO Erik Mcmillan:

“Our beacons support iBeacon, BLE and NFC communications technologies,” McMillan said. “This means that we can work with all the mobile device platforms including iOS, Android and Windows.” A shopper browsing a product area interacts with the Shelfbucks beacon using a smartphone, and can download information, coupons or other real-time offers on nearby products for immediate redemption.“Our system works with every mobile device manufactured in the last three years,” McMillan said. “Our goal is to make it easy for shoppers to go into stores, wave their phone at one of our beacons and get the best deals.”

 Sadly, he makes no mention of BlackBerry, but given that BB10 supports both BLE and NFC, the real challenge will be whether these retailers create a native mobile app for BB10, or take the effort to port their Android app.  Given that the BB10 10.2.1 runtime supports Bluetooth, BlackBerry users may still be able to enjoy these features.

Since Apple announced their support for BLE and iBeacons over NFC, you’ve probably seen countless articles spelling out the demise of NFC.  While researching for this article I came across Gordon Saussy’s article for Acta Wireless, comparing NFC and BLE; while providing an easy to read and understand comparison of the two, I was particularly drawn to his concluding remarks:

“BLE versus NFC” isn’t the right framing.   If you have a particular use case in mind – for example, proximity marketing – you can compare solutions built on the two technologies and others (e.g. printed QR codes), and decide which best fits your needs.  Cost, security, “intent”, range are all factors to consider, and some solutions could make complementary use of both NFC and Bluetooth technologies.  If there is ever one dominant, widely-used, “winning” solution for mobile commerce, its success will be driven by a lot of factors beyond the technologies used at the radio layer.”

The reason I was so drawn to the statements above is that it comes down to a question of support for standards driven technology.  The fact that BB10 supports both, users are well positioned for the future of mobile payments.  The real pain point however is whether the respective retailer’s or bank’s mobile app will be available for BB10 or not.  The advancements being made with the BB10 Android runtime may help bridge the gap where a native app doesn’t exist, and allow users to enjoy the benefits of this technology.  CIBC’s and RBC’s Mobile Banking apps and Tim Horton’s TimmyMe app not only support NFC payments, but are native to BB10.  RBC’s secure cloud contact less payment functionality is currently only available for certain Android phones that support NFC but their website indicates that the functionality will be available soon for their native BB10 Banking app.  Currently, RBC’s secure cloud functionality is only offered to Bell clients and the CIBC’s app is only offered to Rogers clients.

While we’re on the topic of secure mobile banking, EnStream – which is owned by Bell, Telus and Rogers – selected BlackBerry (RIM at that point) in 2012 to manage Canadian NFC secure elements. According to NFC World:

EnStream will offer TSM services to both carriers and service providers, with RIM providing the secure element management (SEM) platform that mobile network operators will use to manage on-device secure credentials. The EnStream platform will be “accessible to any financial institution, government agency, corporation or other entity, regardless of size or technical sophistication,” the venture says.

 “While mobile payments will be the first widely adopted smartphone capability, the EnStream solution will also allow smartphones to be used for transit passes, tickets, access keys, couponing, loyalty rewards, library cards, driver’s licences, health cards — in effect placing much of the contents of our wallets securely and directly into smartphones.”

 “EnStream is leading the way by providing a single interconnection gateway for all Canadian carriers and all Canadian banks,” says Almis Ledas, EnStream’s COO. “We’re proud that Canada will be one of the first countries in the world to make a shared gateway available to accelerate the adoption of this technology, thanks to the capital commitments and technological capabilities of Canada’s wireless carriers.”

 RIM’s SEM platform is designed to securely manage credentials on SIM cards “installed in all types of mobile devices, including BlackBerry smartphones, Android devices, and Windows phones,” the BlackBerry maker points out.

In light of having the hardware and software out of the box, and being chosen to secure the industry for Canadian NFC payments, the future looks bright for BlackBerry and mobile payments.