With eye on Apple Pay, Apple joins secure chip technology non-profit GlobalPlatform

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Ahead of the iPhone 6 debut, Apple's first device to incorporate NFC and Apple Pay, the company has become a full paying member of GlobalPlatform, an association looking to standardize infrastructure relating to secure applications and smart chip technology.

According to its website, GlobalPlatform is a non-profit group that "identifies, develops and publishes specifications that promote the secure and interoperable deployment and management of multiple applications on secure chip technology." The association draws on a cadre of high-powered tech sector members to create secure standards that can be easily deployed across new and existing hardware and software platforms.

GlobalPlatform's specifications address three major security areas: SE, or secure elements like the secure enclave found in Apple's A7 and A8 SoCs; TEE, or trusted execution environments built into a main processor's architecture; and Messaging, which handles communication between backend systems and a device's SE, TEE or other secure assets.

Of interest to Apple are specifications relating to secure payments, which will roll out in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus as Apple Pay. Unveiled last week by CEO Tim Cook, Apple Pay stores sensitive credit card or other payment information in a secure onboard element, then uses NFC technology to communicate tokenized data wirelessly to point-of-sale terminals. Touch ID fingerprint recognition rounds out the security feature list.

As a full member of GlobalPlatform, Apple is paying a fee of $30,000 per year, which allows the company to actively participate in shaping specifications for various initiatives like secure element deployment and tie-ins with vendors' backend systems.

This could be a boon for Apple as multiple payments industry players count themselves among GlobalPlatform's full member list are credit card networks Visa, MasterCard and American Express, all of which were announced as partners for Apple's new Apple Pay mobile payments system. Qualcomm, Broadcom and NXP are also members, the latter of which is rumored to be supplying Apple with the iPhone 6 NFC hardware.

Along with competing hardware manufacturers like Samsung, wireless telecoms AT&T, Verizon, NTT, Rogers, Orange and China Mobile are full GlobalPlatform members.

Apple Pay will debut with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus this Friday, with support from major card issuing banks and availability at over 220,000 store locations at launch.


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