Rivals Verizon Wireless, AT&T and T-Mobile are working together on Isis, a venture intended to turn mobile phones into wallets. Google, Apple, Nokia and others are on board.
Rival carriers Verizon Wireless, AT&T and T-Mobile will be working
together to create a "national commerce network that aims to fundamentally
transform how people shop, pay and save," the three announced Nov. 16.
The venture, called Isis, relies on smartphones and NFC
(near-field communications), which uses short-range, high-frequency wireless
technology to pass encrypted information between devices. In countries such as Japan,
consumers have used such a service-which essentially turns one's smartphone
into a wallet-for several years now.
Michael Abbott, formerly with GE Capital, has been tapped to lead Isis,
which is expected to roll out its service to "key geographic markets" over the
next 18 months.
"Our mobile commerce network, through relationships with merchants, will
provide an enhanced, more convenient, more personalized shopping experience for
consumers," Abbott said in a statement. "While mobile payments will be at the
core of our offering, it is only the start. We plan to create a mobile wallet
that ultimately eliminates the need for consumers to carry cash, credit and
debit cards, reward cards, coupons, tickets and transit passes."
Between them, AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon offer wireless service to more
than 200 million customers, who will have access to Isis.
Currently, Isis is working with Discover Financial
Services' payment network to develop an infrastructure for the program.
Barclaycard US is expected to be the first issuer on the Isis network,
offering mobile payment products.
"We believe the venture will have the scope and scale necessary to introduce
mobile commerce on a broad basis," said Abbott. "In the beginning, we intend to
fully utilize Discover's national payment infrastructure as well as
Barclaycard's expertise in contactless and mobile payments. Moving forward, Isis
will be available to all interested merchants, banks and mobile carriers."
The day before the Isis announcement, Google CEO
Eric Schmidt-while showing off a device expected to be the
at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco-explained that Android 2.3,
or "Gingerbread," will leverage NFC technology, working with an embedded chip
in the phone and a mobile application.
"The theory of the case is that you'll be able to take these mobile
devices from everybody, and you'll be able to walk into a store and do commerce
and be able to figure out where you are, again with your permission," Schmidt
. "It could eventually literally replace your credit card."
He added that NFC uses a higher level of authentication than the traditional
credit card magnetic stripe, making it more secure.
Google competitor Apple is also preparing to get in on the action, and in
August hired an NFC expert as its new product manger for mobile commerce, as
well as published a number of NFC-related patents
over the summer
. In addition, Nokia-no stranger to NFC, having launched a trial NFC payment plan
in China in 2006, among other efforts-plans to push out an upgrade to its
Symbian 3-running C7 smartphone in early 2011, enabling the device to handle
NFC tag reading, Near
Field Communications World
reported Nov. 14, citing the French site
"Any time major industry players agree on a step forward, it's a great step
for all involved, especially consumers," Nokia spokesperson Joseph Gallo told
eWEEK. "In this case, with regard to NFC, it adds further value to the handset
and ultimately the consumer, by allowing access to new services and digital
content on their mobile easily and conveniently."
The ability to easily share content such as business cards and photos, or to
use an NFC mobile device as a travel card, ticket or loyalty card, Gallo
explained, "adds to the consumer's emotional attachment to the device."
Bling Nation, a company that uses contactless stickers, called Bling Tags,
on the back of mobile phones, has recently been running a mobile payment trial
with PayPal and will roll out its solution in early 2011, Forbes
reported Nov. 15. The Bling technology is compatible with NFC technology, and
so will work with NFC phones, Forbes
reports, adding that the company is currently in negotiations with handset
manufacturers to incorporate the technology directly into their handsets.
effective as of Nov. 16, will be based in New York.