Google is developing an Android payment platform to make it easier for developers to enable mobile payments in third-party applications and retail services.
The company will soon launch Android Pay, a mobile payment framework designed to let application vendors as well as brick-and-mortar companies build a secure payment service on top of Android.
Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of products at Google announced the company’s plans for Android Pay at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on March 2.
Several media reports quoted him describing the technology as an Application Programming Interface (API) layer that can be used to enable mobile payments from within apps and cash registers at physical stores that support Near Field Communication (NFC).
Android Pay is apparently not a separate application but a framework for supporting mobile payments including those made via Google Wallet, according to Pichai’s statements in Barcelona.
Google plans eventually to support biometric authentication in Android Pay. The goal is to give Android users a way to authenticate themselves using fingerprint sensors when making payments in much the same way that Apple Pay does on its iPhones.
A Forbes report said Android Pay will let users store credit card data locally on their devices so they can pay for products and services without requiring a network connection. Android Pay will support security measures like tokenization to hide credit card data during mobile payment transactions.
Android Pay is one of several initiatives that Google has launched in recent months to bolster its presence in the mobile payment space. In February, Google acquired Softcard, a mobile payments vendor jointly owned by Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T. Google will use Softcard’s NFC technology in future versions of Google Wallet.
As part of the technology acquisition arrangement, Google will pre-install Wallet on smartphones from the three companies starting later this year.
In addition, Google is rumored to be working on a payment technology called Plaso that would presumably let Android users pay for transactions by speaking their initials to cashiers at point-of-sale terminals.
The moves come amid signs that the mobile payment space is beginning to heat up rapidly. In addition to Google and Apple, Samsung has entered the market with service predictably named Samsung Pay.
Though Google was first to market with Wallet, it has had only modest success with this service, especially compared to Apple.
But Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research believes that could begin to change. Apple’s success in getting retailers to accept Apple Pay means there are a lot more NFC-enabled cash registers currently installed that are also capable of supporting Google Wallet. As a result, it will become easier for Android device owners to use Google Wallet at physical store locations as well, he predicts.