smartcard-reader turns your Android device (running Kitkat or later) into a payment terminal or similar smartcard reader. It uses NFC to interact with a contactless smartcard, either physical or emulated.

Among other things, it is especially useful for testing HCE (host card emulation) apps running on another smartphone.

So What?

What exactly can smartcard-reader do for you?

(Note: If you are relatively new to NFC and card emulation, or you just want more info, please read the "Background Info" section below first, and then come back here!)

HCE relies heavily on the routing of APDUs from contactless terminals to the correct apps, whether they reside on the host processor or UICC-based secure element. Routing is based on AID, or Application ID, which of course is meant to uniquely identify each smartcard app/service. That is the identifier used by the terminal to "select" the particular card app with which it wants to interact. (For example, Visa credit is identified by AID A0000000031010, and MasterCard credit is known by AID A0000000041010.)

As such, I use smartcard-reader for testing AID routes on HCE-enabled devices. I do this by issuing "select" APDU commands from smartcard-reader and checking for the appropriate responses from another NFC-paired device -- the device under test. smartcard-reader can also be used to check which smartcard apps are present on or off host.

Other developers have told me that smartcard-reader is useful for testing their HCE apps. One benefit is a second smartphone with this app is more convenient and accessible than a laptop, test reader, and scripting environment.

Read more about "application selection" and AIDs here.

And, here is an ISO 7816-4 reference containing APDU commands including "select file".

Come Again?

Just run smartcard-reader on one device, set the App/AID that you want to select, and tap it against another device -- the device doing the card emulation. You can, of course, also tap a physical smartcard. You can also add your own Apps/AIDs, and modify the ones you've added.

Test Modes

Smart card apps and AIDs can be defined/created, copied, modified, and assigned to groups under "smartcard apps" in the navigation drawer.

So, there are 4 test modes (app select has 2 sub-modes):

1. app select -- select one smart card app/AID at a time

1a. automatic -- one select per tap

1b. manual w/ soft button -- multiple selects and apps per tap/connection, choose one app at a time

2. batch select -- select a full group of apps back-to-back, automatically upon tapping; assign apps to groups under "smartcard apps"

3. emv read -- read payment card data

Background Info

Skip this section if you're well versed in the world of NFC card emulation for mobile devices!

Smartcards, also known as chip cards, can be contact, contactless, or a hybrid of the two. The contact type of smartcard has a SIM-like contact-based chip (In fact, a mobile SIM is a reduced size smartcard). The chip speaks a character- or block-level protocol based on ISO 7816, and individual apps define command and response protocols based on APDU messages, or Application Programming Data Units.

The contactless type of smartcard adds the NFC antenna and speaks an NFC protocol called ISO-DEP, based on ISO 14443-4. Apps still send APDUs -- based on ISO 7816-4 -- on top of the NFC ISO-DEP layer.

Contactless smartcard emulation is made possible by the card emulation function of NFC, also known as CE mode. While it's most commonly known for its use in credit card payments (eg. on an Android enabled smartphone through apps such as Google Wallet), it has other useful applications such as building access, public transit ticketing, student tracking, etc.

Prior to the Android Kitkat release, NFC card emulation relied on a hardware secure element connected to the device's NFC controller. The secure element can be part of the device's SIM card or it can be another embedded component. Either way, it provides a secure environment for applets to run and to interact with contactless smartcard readers (eg. payment terminals).

Kitkat introduced a new feature called HCE, or host-based card emulation, which allows an Android app running on the host processor to have direct control over CE mode interaction, ie. talking directly to smartcard readers without the use of a hardware secure element component. The feature also includes compatibility with the hardware secure element, so that one app may use "host" card emulation (HCE) while another uses "offhost" (hardware secure element) card emulation.

In addition to all of this, Kitkat also enabled a dedicated "reader mode", so apps can listen solely for smartcards without having to worry about the potential interference of other NFC functions such as CE or P2P (peer-to-peer) modes. This new reader mode is a key enabler of smartcard-reader.



Special thanks to the authors of the following libraries and projects from whence this app benefits: