The mobile wallet segment has been struggling to gain traction, but two agreements by Isis—one with American Express and one with Chase—show that progress is being made.
Isis is a joint venture of AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless that plans to launch a nationwide mobile wallet service. Mobile Commerce Daily reports that American Express is basing its American Express Serve, which will enable customers to use a mobile wallet to pay bills and transmit money, on Isis. The story says that after successful trials in Austin, Texas and Salt Lake City, Chase will offer its credit card in the Isis MobileWallet nationwide.
NewsFactor reports that Isis said that it will begin rollout later this year. The story notes that NFC is widely available, though it is notably absent from the iPhone. The plans—at least those being shared with the public—seem ambitious but a bit hazy:
Isis has not yet revealed its roll-out plans, although it has said that 25 of the top 100 national retailers support its payment technology, including Coca-Cola vending machines, Foot Locker, Macy's and others. The Isis joint venture cited a report by the Aite Group, which estimated there will be 1.3 million locations in the U.S. with contactless payment terminals by the end of this year.
Isis’s agreements with Chase and American Express aren’t the only news this week in the sector, though. In the UK, CloudZync launched Zync Wallet for Windows Phone with 280 merchants and stores already on board, according to Windows Phone Central. The site says that the company also is releasing cloud-based tools that work through the Windows Phone client to “set-up, brand and manage their own loyalty and CRM schemes.” The story provides more details on what CloudZync is doing.
Mobile Payments Today has a story based on a report from Mercator Advisory Group. The first point is that the names of the groups—LevelUp and Lemon Wallet are two in addition to Isis—will replace the names of the payment cards themselves as the identifiable brand. The story also says that the payment card companies need to be members of multiple groups.
The landscape is complex. The story relies on the insight of Patricia Hewitt, the director of Mercator’s debit advisory service and author of the report, which looks at the business aspects of the sector. An illustration of the complexity is Hewitt’s assertion that there are five types of wallets, which she describes. The overall takeaway from the story is that it is not surprising that such a confusing landscape leads to a slow and deliberate rollout.
From the technical perspective, the heart of the payment sector is near field communication (NFC). It is not surprising that NFC is finding far less ambitious uses first. GigaOm reports that the NFC—which focuses on the transfer of data over short distances—is being used for such mundane tasks as pairing phones with speakers, printers and automobiles.
Those uses aren’t as exciting, but they are a big deal, in a way: The more day-to-day utility NFC has, the more reason for carriers to ask that it be implemented in handsets. Thus, it will be there when the far sexier uses, such as digital wallets, truly take off.