Morpho announces NFC key fob that connects to any WiFi phone

A new NFC-enabled key fob has been developed by Morpho and Simlink, hot on the heels of a white paper from German car manufacturer BMW outlining its vision for an NFC-enabled ‘car key of the future’.

The Morpho and Simlink key fob connects to any WiFi-enabled phone to enable consumers to pay for items at the point of sale with their existing mobile device.

A Morpho-enabled SIM card is contained in the key fob, along with a secure application for connecting via NFC and protecting the user’s data. “Equipped in this way, the key fob can help to deploy any kind of near field communication service, such as mobile payment, mobile ticketing or loyalty services, enabled by an NFC SIM card, with any kind of WiFi-enabled mobile phone right now,” says Paul Naldrett, senior vice president for telecoms at Morpho.

“We are very pleased with this key fob, and we see great opportunities for it,” adds Dr Oddvar Risnes, CEO of Simlink. “The product is the result of our development of WLAN-enabled SIM cards, and we believe that the key fob will pave the way for many interesting business opportunities for MNOs. We are currently in discussion with Telenor on use cases.”

Morpho, then known as Sagem Orga, first demonstrated a WiFi-enabled SIM designed to add NFC functionality to existing mobile phones at the 2010 Mobile World Congress.

In January, BMW released a white paper outlining what it imagines “the car key of the future” will be like. Some car keys are already able to store vehicle-related data, such as mileage, fuel level, battery charge level or service data, though this information can only be read by the appropriate appliance at a specialist garage.

But, said the company, an NFC key would allow “personal access to a new mobility experience” and offer a significantly wider range of features.

“It will permit the simple and convenient use of future services along the travel chain and in everyday use,” the white paper explains. “Our vision is that, in future, the key will not only mean access to the car but, inside and outside the car, will become as it were the ‘key’ to many functions. I would then be able to set out while checking for just one thing: Have I got my BMW key on me?” said the car maker’s Thomas Kratz.

Their vision is for drivers, for example, to be able to access travel information and tickets for public transport via the BMW ConnectedDrive call centre to search for the most suitable connection. Following confirmation by the customer, the relevant ticket is then booked on, say, the servers of rail operator Deutsche Bahn, paid for and sent to the car via the existing BMW Online connection.

A number of other companies are also working on adding NFC functionality to vehicles. In October 2010, automotive components supplier Valeo partnered with Orange to demonstrate a near field communication-based solution for sharing vehicles between several drivers. The same month, automotive electronics specialist Delphi introduced an NFC key fob pitched as a low cost way to enable vehicle manufacturers to customise the driver experience according to regional requirements and to provide drivers with a way to access data about their vehicle from their smart phone.

Readers can download the full BMW white paper in pdf format from the car maker’s website.

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