Suica Express Transit and China Express Transit Compared

Japanese tech journalist Satoru Nakayama posted his experience of riding the Shanghai subway with an Apple Pay Express Transit China card loaded on his iPhone. Using Apple Pay Express Transit in Shanghai is similar to Apple Pay Suica but there are interesting differences:

  • Apple Pay recharge for China Express Transit is limited to Union Pay credit cards
  • Recharge kiosks are available but limited to Union Pay and QR Code options. No cash recharge
  • China Express Transit can only be used for transit, you cannot purchase things like Suica

And yes, Nakayama san confirms that QR Codes are a pain in the butt for recharge as well as a transit gate entry option but we already knew that. Another interesting observation is that Express Transit China cards feel slower at the transit gate than Suica. This is not surprising.

FeliCa based Suica cards and Japanese transit gates have been fine tuned for a 200ms (millisecond) processing time but are usually faster. NFC-F response time is about 50ms and most onsite transaction times for Suica in Japan and Octopus cards in Hong Kong clock in about 100ms. My guess is that China Transit cards are closer to the usual MIFARE transaction speed of 500ms.

The tech side story of China Express Transit cards is an interesting one. The plastic smartcards started out on MIFARE technology but the current China T-Union card is an evolution of the Chinese PBOC 2.0ED/EP spec defined in the JT/T 978 standards. Conceptually it is close to a EMV-like stored value card for offline processing. It’s not clear what flavor Apple Pay is using, it does not appear to be the full China T-Union spec but could be something like an Apple flavored PBOC 2.0ED/EP implementation. This could be a reason why Apple Pay Express Transit in China is still beta.

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Contactless Passes and NFC Certificates for iOS 12 and watchOS 5

iOS 12 Apple Pay Wallet and PassKit NFC Certificates

Apple revealed details of NFC improvements coming to iOS 12 and watchOS 5. Contactless Passes for Wallet were announced at the WWDC18 Keynote on June 4. Apple clearly wants to promote Contactless Passes in Wallet over clunky QR Codes and showed a demo of Contactless Passes in action on Apple Watch at the Wembley Stadium contactless ticket gate.

It’s also clear that Apple wants to promote contactless passes on Apple Watch over iPhone: contactless passes were unveiled during the watchOS segment and are gorgeously displayed exclusively on the watchOS 5 page. Student IDs use the new Contactless Passes feature with Assa Abloy and Blackboard working with Apple to make those happen. You might remember Assa Abloy from The Information rumor piece about door locks and ID Passes coming to Wallet.

The most interesting aspect of implementing Contactless Passes in Wallet is the “NFC Certificate” requirement that are issued by Apple to the developer and strictly controlled for security purposes. I have not seen details, but PassKit NFC Certificates were previously covered by NDA and extremely limited. If door locks and ID passes are involved NDA will still be part of the application process, but if Apple is opening up access to more developers NFC Certificates should be the ticket for developers to gain NFC access that was not possible up to now. At least for mere mortals.

It will be fascinating to see what developers do with wider NFC Certificate distribution and what contactless passes/reward cards, and hopefully much more, that come out of it with iOS 12 and watchOS 5.

WWDC18 Apple Pay

iOS 12 Apple Pay Wallet and PassKit NFC Certificates

Door locks…check, ID…check, transit…oops. The Information got 2 out of 3 right but the transit stuff was a bust. We won’t get the whole iOS 12 and watchOS 5 story until new products are announced this fall but it looks like open developer access to Apple Pay and NFC is coming via an enhanced Core NFC, or some other method to be revealed later this week at WWDC18. A lot of developer heads would turn if Apple completely opens the doors to full 3rd party access with all 3 NFC Modes: Card Emulation, Reader/Writer and Peer to Peer.

The only thing clear so far is that contactless Student ID cards are coming to Apple Pay Wallet. There are lots of FeliCa and MIFARE based ID badge security systems out there but I could not find who provides the technology for Temple University’s OWLCard or John Hopkins J-Card, but there are clues how they will work:

  1. Contactless student ID cards are Stored Value (SV)
  2. Because they are SV cards, they can be recharged

Since they will reside in Apple Pay Wallet this probably means contactless student ID cards can be ‘recharged’ with an Apple Pay credit card instead of running to the nearest ‘refill/recharge’ station. Anytime, Anywhere Recharge.

Sound familiar? My goodness it’s just like Apple Pay Suica that you can recharge on the go and use for JR East Suica coin lockers. The only real difference is that Apple Pay Student ID cards cannot be used for transit. At least not yet. The Apple Pay Developer page says, “discover how to create contactless passes for rewards cards, gift cards, tickets, and more.” Contactless passes for reward cards eh? Sounds like that JRE POINT card in Apple Pay Wallet will be possible after all.

UPDATE: Contactless Passes are made possible with NFC Certificates and appear to the method for some 3rd party access to NFC in iOS 12 and watchOS 5.

Apple Pay and Core NFC Developer News

New NFC Features Coming to iOS 12 and watchOS 5

Apple Pay and Core NFC Developer News

Kevin Lynch offered a sneak peak of new Core NFC functionally/features with contactless Student ID cards coming to iOS 12 and watchOS 5. The key point was the ability to use a Student ID loaded on Apple Watch or iPhone Wallet to “pay for things”, the slides listed many more features: gym, class attendance, laundry and vending machines.

Yep, that sounds like NFC Card Emulation Mode and Reader/Writer Mode support enhancements to Core NFC for developers such as Duke University and Temple University to work with. We should be hearing more about this during WWDC week. Also check out the mentions on the iOS 12 Features page and the watchOS 5 page.

UPDATE 1: It looks like NFC access for developers has not been enhanced. Apple is staying with the case by case Wallet access model they have used so far: EMV contactless for credit cards, FeliCa for Suica/iD/QUICPay, China transit cards, etc., for contactless Student ID cards in Wallet. We may get lucky when the final release iOS 12 ships with new iPhone models this fall. There are always a few iOS goodies that Apple keeps under wraps for a new iPhone rollout.

UPDATE 2: More WWDC18 Apple Pay

UPDATE 3: As usual I spoke too soon. Easier Apple Pay/Core NFC developer access is coming after all.

watchOS Student ID Cards

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