For those of us who watch the trends in mobile technology, the Ericsson Mobility Report is always an interesting read. And if there’s one thing that the June 2017 report makes clear, it’s that mobility is here – and here to stay.
Billions of Mobile Users
According to the report, the number of active mobile subscribers worldwide has reached 5.2 billion, and more than a million new mobile broadband subscriptions are added every day. At that rate, Ericsson predicts that, by the end of 2022, the number of mobile broadband subscribers will roughly equal the number of people on the planet.
Mobile Data on the Rise
How people are using those mobile subscriptions is interesting, too, since it shows the growing importance of mobile data. Between Q1, 2016 and Q1, 2017, mobile data traffic grew 70 percent. Smartphones already represent a large portion of that usage, and this is expected to continue. In fact, Ericsson anticipates that more than 90 percent of mobile data traffic will come from smartphones by 2022.
Apple and NFC
And now, if the Ericsson Report weren’t enough to show that mobility is gaining momentum, Apple recently made an announcement that promises to push mobility even further. With the introduction of iOS 11, Apple will support NFC tag reading on iPhones.
Adding Apple’s support for Near Field Communication (NFC) is an important development for several reasons. In the past few years, NFC has proven itself as the secure tap-and-go technology for a wide range of mobile applications, from payments and access to transport and even device pairing. There are more than two billion NFC-enabled smartphones and tablets currently on the market, and Apple’s announcement means that even more people will be able to read NFC tags.
What it means for mGov
Expanded support for NFC has particular relevance for mobile government, or mGov, since NFC is a secure, trusted format for supporting mobile access to online government services. More specifically, NFC provides a convenient way to securely store the mobile IDs, known as derived credentials, that make it safe to access online services.
A derived credential is essentially the online counterpart of a person’s government-issued identity card, such as a National ID card or a driver’s license. The sign-on process for a government service uses the derived credential to authenticate the user before granting access to the service. A single derived credential can be used to provide access to multiple government services, acting as what’s known as a single sign-on (SSO). Derived credentials let people identify themselves while keeping their private information private. They are a trusted way for citizens to assert their identities, and make it safer to access mobile services of all kinds.
Combining a derived credential with NFC in a smartphone creates a mobile format that is both secure and convenient to use. The derived credential is stored in the embedded secure element (eSE) associated with NFC, where it remains protected from harm. A single tap of the NFC-enabled phone initiates the secure login process, which uses the derived credential to authenticate the user. Gaining access is quick, simple, and proven secure.
NFC and mGov Use Cases
Widespread support for NFC means citizens can use their derived credentials to access all kinds of vital services, not just those provided by the government. For example, using the derived credential associated with a healthcard, a person might verify their medical information when ordering a prescription from an online pharmacy. Or, using the derived credential associated with a driver’s license, a person might use their smartphone to reserve a rental car and verify their authorization to operate a vehicle. Then, when it comes to actually drive the car, they can use their smartphone as the key that unlocks the car door. The derived credential from a national ID card might be used with an online bank, to open an account, with a utility company, to initiate service, or as proof of eligibility to vote.
Derived credentials on secure NFC smartphones also make it possible to sign electronic documents with a digital signature. Contracts, proposals, applications for government assistance, tax declarations – any type of legal document can be made valid with the smartphone’s digital signature. Government-issued credentials can be used with private transactions, too, in much the same way that physical IDs are today. The entire transaction can take place electronically, without paper and printers, and without having to travel somewhere in person to sign a document. When integrated with software for document management, the digitally signed documents become easier to archive, and faster to find, than their paper-based equivalents, and don’t take up space in offices or file cabinets.
The widespread adoption of smartphones, the increased reliance on mobile data, and the growing support for NFC creates a foundation for mGov services of all kinds. Any government agency that’s considering an mGov initiative can be confident that now is an excellent time to start.
NXP is the co-inventor of NFC and the world’s leading supplier of NFC solutions. We’re also the number-one provider of ICs for government applications. Our goal is to expand the options for mGov services, with industry-leading solutions for secure mobility that use NFC and other advanced technologies.