The Untapped Mobile Technology — The SIM Card

The SIM card is an often forgotten part of our phones nowadays. Since the rise of the smartphone, SIM cards became that thing you needed for your phone to work. This wasn’t always the case. I remember a time where you saved contacts on your SIM card. When you got a new phone, all you had to do was switch your old SIM card to the new phone and your contacts would transfer (granted there was a maximum number of contacts it could hold, which wasn’t very high if I remember correctly).

Today I came across the simhacks website. It’s got a lot of interesting stuff for developers but the main take away is the opportunity to use the SIM card with applications. Some of the possible applications they list are:
- storing ssh private keys on your SIM
- secure bitcoin transactions
- direct and secure connection with phone NFC
- mobile payment applications

This got me excited about the various opportunities that might exist if we included the SIM card more in our mobile applications. Mobile payments being the most obvious, since M-Pesa already utilizes the phone’s SIM card to bring mobile payments to much of Kenya. Bitcoin is also another evident use, though the exact implementation is not exactly clear. I wasn’t the only one thinking about the interesting use cases of Bitcoin and a SIM card, here’s an entire reddit conversation on exactly that. Finally, the SIM card presents a place to add an application to a smartphone without having to go through the app store model.

There are many reasons for the current low adoption of SIM card applications by mobile developers, including the need to get the carriers on board (big one!) and the fact that not all carriers even use SIM cards (Verizon minus LTE and Sprint). However, my hope is that the simhacks website will get more mobile developers to think about incorporating the SIM card in new and interesting ways.

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