The Apple Wallet Ponta card launch at LAWSON presents another dilemma: just what exactly is Apple using for iOS 12/watchOS 5 Apple Wallet Passes and Student ID cards? Student ID cards and Apple Wallet Ponta have the same device eligibility specs: iOS 12/watch OS 5 running on iPhone 6 and later/Apple Watch Series 1 and later. Let’s take a look.
You might assume that Apple Wallet Ponta is FeliCa because it’s only in Japan but the eligible device list tells a different story. You might also assume that everything in Japan is FeliCa but this is also not the case. Doutor Coffee shops sell a handy little Doutor pre-paid card that is MIFARE and it works flawlessly side by side with FeliCa flavored Apple Pay Suica on the same NFC reader.
Altogether we have an interesting spec list for Student ID.
- The same eligible device specs that only support NFC A-B across all devices
- Stored value
- iOS 12 PassKIT NFC Certificates
- Local offline transactions
The only technology that fits this profile along with Express Cards for Student ID cards is MIFARE. Only Apple could pull this kind of ‘under the hood thing’ off in iOS 12 without anybody suspecting and it neatly puts all the major NFC technology pieces on Apple Pay: EMV, FeliCa, MIFARE and PBOC China Transit.
Blackboard supplies the technology and backend services for Student ID cards on iOS 12. I contacted Blackboard PR to confirm if the card technology was FeliCa or MIFARE but did not receive an answer. However I did run across an interesting Blackboard press release from 2015 Blackboard and NXP Semiconductors Collaborate to Strengthen Campus Card Technology:
Blackboards’ push to adopt NFC in addition to their existing MIFARE-based solutions, back in 2012 showed incredible insight into the potential of this technology. The security, convenience and flexibility that NXPs NFC and MIFARE solutions bring truly reflect the student lifestyle. Now access to campus services can be simply enabled via a smart watch or smart phone.
Based on this and the fact it came 2 years after a FeliCa demo of Blackboard Student ID cards with a rumored migration from FeliCa to MIFARE, plus the eligible device specs, the only conclusion is that Student ID cards on iOS 12 are MIFARE which is NFC-A/B (technically NFC-A).
Wallet supports the value added service (VAS) protocol for transmitting data from supported passes to compatible NFC terminals. The VAS protocol can be implemented on contactless terminals and uses NFC to communicate with supported Apple devices.
This is also NFC-A. Contactless passes have been around for a while on iOS but adoption has been slow. With iOS 12 PASSKit, Apple is encouraging developers to migrate from QR Codes to NFC contactless passes and hopefully relaxes the NFC Certificate requirement bar a little. Part of the reason for the slow uptake is poor NFC reader support. LAWSON has a new POS system built around Panasonic JT-R600CR readers which are Apple Pay savvy and Apple Wallet Ponta cards only work correctly when you tell the LAWSON cashier to use “Apple Pay”.
Apple announced support for Portland’s HOP Fastpass transit card which is MIFARE