Android Ready SE AllianceSource: Google

What you need to know

  • Google announces the Android Ready SE Alliance to give devices more useful in our daily lives.
  • With the alliance, your smartphone or wearable can become your mobile ID or replace your car keys.
  • Several Android OEMs have already signed up for the program, which is a good sign for adoption.

While smartphones grow more powerful, companies also take steps to make them more secure. In 2018, the Titan M Chip was introduced in the Google Pixel 3, and it is included in newer models like the Google Pixel 5, bringing enhanced, tamper-resistant security to smartphones. Samsung's Galaxy phones also come with their own security chip, which the company introduced last year along with the Samsung Galaxy S20. With this extra level of hardware security, Google thinks it's time to make smartphones an even deeper part of our lives, so it created an initiative called the Android Ready SE Alliance.

The new program is a partnership between Google and Secure Element (SE) vendors that create hardware like the Titan M chip to secure smartphones. The alliance aims to create secure new use-cases for smartphones to integrate them into our lives further:

A major goal of this alliance is to enable a consistent, interoperable, and demonstrably secure applets across the Android ecosystem. Validated implementations of Android Ready SE applets build even stronger trust in the Android Platform. OEMs that adopt Android Ready SE can produce devices that are more secure and allow for remote updates to enable compelling new use cases as they are introduced into the Android platform.

Google hopes that this can eventually lead to "applets" that introduce features like digital keys, digital passports, mobile driver's licenses, and more. Several Android OEMs have already signed up for the program, which should help boost adoption within the overall Android ecosystem. The OEMs weren't named, but Samsung would be remiss not to include its Galaxy smartphones, given its relationship with Google. Furthermore, Google stated that these "applets" would be compatible with Android TV, Android Auto, and even Wear OS, which could mean that more useful functions could be in the works for the best Android smartwatches.

With Google's robust smart home platform and given the recent partnership with automakers like Ford, this seems like a natural step for Android to take. Digital car keys aren't unheard of, as it's something Apple launched last year with iOS 14. iPhones and Apple Watches can already lock and unlock select BWM models with a tap, using NFC and Apple's own Secure Element. While some Galaxy phones can also do this already with BMW, Google is hoping to create wider availability for more smartphones and eventually more car manufacturers.

The first applet from Google's alliance, StrongBox for SE, is already available on Google's platforms and is used to store cryptographic keys. Work is already underway for digital keys and mobile driver's licenses/IDs.

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