Japanese mobile carrier NTT DoCoMo has developed an app that can wirelessly send authentication credentials to devices that are not connected to the Internet, allowing more hardware to get online or query the cloud.
Potential applications of the technology include the ability to share mobile SIM user credentials such as phone numbers among multiple devices without the need to physically transfer a SIM card. It could also be used for giving online access to IoT (Internet of Things) hardware.
Based on prototype hardware announced last year, the Portable SIM App for Android can transfer data with a wave of a hand. The carrier is exhibiting the app at Mobile World Congress this week in Barcelona.
The app works with new chipset software from Qualcomm Technologies and the technology could be in smartphones starting this summer. That means phones could be used to quickly send mobile subscriber identities including usernames and preferences to a range of devices for various applications.
Last June, DoCoMo unveiled the pocket-sized Portable SIM prototype that can be used to route calls to phones that don't have SIM cards.
The company called it the world's first SIM-based authentication device that can provide wireless network access. Multiple phone numbers, such as one for business and one for personal use, can also be linked to the same handset through the technology.
While DoCoMo considered incorporating SIM cards into wearable technology, the new app can replace the smartcard when used with the chipset software. It pairs a master device such as a smartphone with a target device via NFC. SIM information is sent via Bluetooth.
One potential application would be waving a smartphone with the app over a car navigation system, and having it access music that a user has stored in the cloud as well as destinations stored on the phone.
The app could be also used for gaming devices that only require a temporary Internet connection for buying in-game features, or to provide Internet access to wearables that are too small to house a SIM card, a DoCoMo spokesman said.
DoCoMo, Japan's dominant mobile carrier, has yet to decide when it will launch the Portable SIM App, or whether it will develop versions for iOS or other platforms.
Tim Hornyak covers Japan and emerging technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Tim on Twitter at @robotopia.