Android Host-base Card Emulation

Android is known for having each version of its OS named after a desert and the next will be no different. Kit Kat, the next version, is already rolling out on some new devices and although the version is only incrementing from 4.3 to 4.4, many see this as a significant update.

First of all, Android will continue its strategy of running on as many devices as possible and it will hope to even expand its use on this version. In addition to hardware independence, Kit Kat will also focus on being efficient in terms of memory usage so that it can run on older devices (Kit Kat can run on hardware with only 512 MB of memory).

Android is already dominating market share and these advancements will only help that cause. This is valuable because Kit Kat will also be implementing a technology called Host-based Card Emulation. Smart phones have been incorporating different features that have eliminated the need for other devices such as GPS systems and cameras. HCE suggests that the wallet may be the next item to be consumed by smart phone technology. This is based off NFC and facilitates a secure method for card payment.

HCE is nifty because it runs as a service on Android, meaning that it does not have to have a UI and can be launched from a hardware interrupt when the NFC reader starts that service. Security is also a large problem when dealing with payment systems. Android handles this by using a secure element. The NFC reader will forward all the information it reads to the secure element and then allow the app to communicate by querying the secure reader for certain information.

Implementing HCE involves first checking the hardware supports it by calling FEATURE_NFC_HOST_CARD_EMULATION. Then we must extend the service with “public class MyHostApduService extends HostApduService”. You can then communicate with the service by processCommandApdu() and sendResponseApdu() to receive and send messages, respectively, in this application level protocol.

The security and convenience of this technology will further the progress of mobile payments, making the wallet a thing of the past. Android 4.4 is already rolling on some devices and should be totally available by early 2014.