Mobile Giants To Form E-Commerce Security Standard

Hot on the heels of an International Data Corp. (IDC) report stating that wireless computing will dominate the Web by 2001, three of the largest manufacturers of mobile products announced Tuesday that they have joined forces to develop an open and common industry framework for secure mobile electronic transactions.

The three partners, Nokia, Ericsson, and Motorola, have been working separately to develop e-commerce applications. Nokia is working with BEA Systems to develop a standards-based solution for building wireless e-commerce applications and with IBM to develop enterprise Wireless Application Protocol (WAP).

Ericsson is working with 724 Solutions, Inc. to create a mobile e-commerce solution based on a common financial services platform. Motorola, which some industry insiders had written off, announced in January that it would make all its mobile phones Internet-ready by the end of this year.

“The ambition is to formulate an environment which allows mobile operators, financial institutions and other service providers to facilitate secure mobile transactions,” said Jan Ahrenbring, Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Ericsson Mobile Communications.

Building Upon Existing Technology

The three companies, which will invite representatives from the telecom, financial and IS/IT industries to participate, will aim to use existing and emerging standards to build a common framework and create an implementation roadmap to “enhance the fast adoption of trusted mobile e-business.”

The plan is to use existing WAP security functions such as Wireless Transport Layer Security (WTLS) and Wireless Identification Modules (WIM), wireless Public Key Technologies, and already implemented mobile payment schemes as technology cornerstones for the new initiative.

Secure Mobile Transactions Critical

The trio may face an uphill battle in convincing customers to shop in a wireless world. A recent survey by @plan shows that recent hack attacks had left 40 percent of Internet shoppers aged 18 and over less likely to make online purchases. In addition, a survey released last month by research and consulting firm Ovum said that that consumers may not be willing to pay for services simply because they are wireless.

However, Ericsson, Motorola, and Nokia point out that a mobile device can be a tool for a variety of services, including banking and trading services, credit card and payment services, loyalty/bonus services and ID-card services. The companies also believe that creating a standard for secure mobile transactions opens up the possibility for small transactions, such as ticket sales, and short distance payments and transactions — including paying parking meters — to be handled via mobile devices.

Matti Alahuhta, President of Nokia Mobile Phones, said, “For a user, a mobile phone is a highly personal device that today is expected to be easily and securely tailored according to an individual need. These expectations cover also the fast emerging mobile e-business sector. A mobile device will be the platform to bridge the virtual and physical worlds of e-business.”

Coming in May

The trio plans to post technical and other details about the project on their Web sites by the end of May to solicit input from related industries. If all goes according to plan, the open framework will be completed by summer.

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