Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Radio Free Wallet

A selection of rfid blocking duct tape wallets and passport covers

Despite many Android phones sporting them, no one in the market for a smartphone makes their purchasing decision based on whether a specific model has an NFC (Near Field Communication) chip. I strongly suspect NFC will remain in the doldrums up until Apple decides to pick the technology up; at that point we might see people actually using their phone as a smart wallet.
However, there are still some uses for NFC equipped phones. One of them is the demonstration of how easy it is for such a phone to read the information off a credit card or passport that happens to pass by. Say, 10-20cm away from the phone. I have to qualify my statements here and declare I have never seen such a demo myself but rather rely on hearsay (for better and worse, I’m stuck in Apple land).
Still, that was enough to make me take measures. My newly purchased wallet, a replacement of the one I’ve been sitting on for the past eleven years, is RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) protected. That is, it has a layer of metallic mesh that prevents magnetic fields from going in and out of the wallet, thus preventing my cards from being read while they’re in the wallet. I would say an even greater need for such protection is required for protecting one’s passport, and yes: there are RFID protected passport holders to be found (like this one, chosen for its color as well as for the football manager).
There are some obvious disadvantages to RFID wallets. They are expensive compared to regular ones and there are less to choose from, implying relative lack of choice. However, the way things are going I suspect RFID wallets are going to be something we will all be taking for granted in the not so distant future. I’m just a bit ahead of the curve.

Image by quinnums, Creative Commons license

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