StoLPaN group includes heavy hitters tech, finance, and education
By Andy Williams, Contributing Editor
Europe is looking to get a head start on creating an NFC ecosystem, thanks to the recently announced creation of a new consortium with the unlikely acronym, StoLPaN. It stands for Store Logistics and Payment with NFC and includes a pan-European consortium of companies, universities and user groups seeking to develop an open architecture for the development, deployment and use of NFC-enabled applications in mobile handsets. It is co-funded by the European Commission and Information Society Technologies (IST) program.
The three-year project is expected to define the business rules and technical specifications required for the successful commercial deployment of third party applications into NFC-enabled mobile devices. These standards will then be submitted to the relevant trade bodies for adoption by the payment, mobile, transit and ticketing industries to create a standardized NFC ecosystem. The project is expected to establish a smart retail environment including support devices and business processes to demonstrate the new solutions.
“We started drafting this project two years ago,” said Francisco Prato, NXP Semiconductors’ business development manager for NFC. “The European Union (EU) gave us the funds (because it) liked the proposal.” Any project the EU funds must be based in Europe and usually lasts three to five years, he added. StoLPaN, while initially given a three-year life span, could be expanded another two years. There are currently 16 companies involved in the consortium.
“We want to create an ecosystem for the end user to use NFC,” said Mr. Prato. One of the biggest concerns is interoperability. It’s the same thing that initially occurred when credit cards were issued. They each needed their own reader. “Nokia will not interoperate with Motorola phones, and so on, so one of our objectives is to look at interoperability issues. We’ll be looking at different projects around the world, focusing on the European market and make recommendations on how the different systems can work together.”
“We’ll define the framework, a set of rules that if the company follows, will guarantee a degree of interoperability,” added Mr. Prato. “If you develop applications for Motorola phones and follow the rules you’ll be insured interoperability. The same applies for the ecosystem,” which he defines as “the applications and all the things you need to know to run the applications.”
He said StoLPaN is looking at payment, ticketing, loyalty and the fact that payment requirements in Europe are different than in the U.S.
But StoLPaN will not write standards. “We’ll issue recommendations,” says Mr. Prato. “People think we’re a regulatory body … that we’re going to write standards. That’s not the case. What we’re doing is looking at the market to see what going on, to define the framework for interoperability for the industry. Companies should look at it as a tool and not as a competitor.”
Implementing test cases to understand the NFC ecosystem
Right now, he said, StoLPaN, a member of the NFC Forum, is still studying the market. “We’re collecting information on existing systems. The next step will be looking at these systems, how these applications are being deployed in the field and the interoperatiblity of the phones involved. The next stage is once we issue some recommendations, we’ll implement one or two test cases, small tryouts.”
In order to accurately address the interoperability issues currently affecting the technology, various usage cases are to be defined within the StoLPaN framework and tested throughout Europe. These use cases will contribute to the identification of a common set of business rules, which will define the roles and responsibilities of every player in the NFC ecosystem.
Based on these findings, the consortium will then look into the specifications for technical requirements and the security aspects of NFC-enabled applications. They will also explore the connection to existing contactless platforms, attempting to ease the burden on individual providers. At the same time the project team will demonstrate how the business rules and technical requirements can be implemented in existing contactless infrastructures, Mr. Prato said.
While transit ticketing with NFC is big in Europe, StoLPaN also wants to track deployment of NFC in the retail environment. “In this case, you can use the phone not only to track items in a supermarket but to pay for these items.”
In this “store of the future,” a shopper would place items in the cart, tracking (and paying for) them with the phone. “You simply exit the market through a gate, which will read that everything you’ve placed in the cart has been scanned,” Mr. Prato added.
The consortium members involved are Motorola, NXP, Auto-ID-Lab St. Gallen, Banca Popolare di Vicenza, Bull, Baker&McKenzie, Consorzio Triveneto S. P. A., Consult Hyperion, Deloitte, Fornax, Libri, Safepay Systems, Sun Microsystems, T-Systems, as well as the Budapest University of Technology and Economics and Budapest Tech John von Neumann Faculty of Informatics.
Its web site is: www.stolpan.com.
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