Mobile Payments System Test Launching Next Month

By August 20, 2010

Bank of America and Visa Inc will launch a smartphone purchasing test system next month. As covered by Reuters Thursday evening, the largest US consumer bank and the largest payment processor in the world will run a system in the

New York area that will allow customers to use cell phones installed with near field communication chips to use the handsets at point-of-sale devices in stores instead of using credit cards.

A big step in bringing mobile phone purchasing to the US, the program will run from September to December, after which the "digital wallet" will be assessed for national deployment. Visa spokesperson Elvira Swanson said in Reuter's coverage that "the Bank of America pilot was not larger than the company's other mobile trials, but she said it could have a more powerful impact on the market than some previous pilots." She added, "It's a way to accelerate mobile contactless payments in the U.S. market."

An obstacle to wide deployment in the near future is the fact that near field communication (NFC) has not been installed standard in many popular smartphones, as ReadWriteWeb explains. This lack may be made up for in future iterations of the iPhone as evidenced by Apple's hire of an NFC expert, as well as Android handsets.

Reporting from IntoMobile in April promised NFC integration soon: Apple has a patent for NFC for purchasing event tickets, and NXP Semiconductors general manager Henri Ardevol predicts that “First phones will be available this year and some more first half of 2011.”

Additional applications for NFC besides payments and e-tickets include bluetooth alternatives for headset pairing, file transfer, wireless network access, and augmented reality applications.

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