Twinlinx CEO Jacek Kowalski was too far ahead of his time when he co-founded contactless chip supplier Inside Contactless in late 1995. But his timing appears to be impeccable with his latest venture, Twinlinx.

The new company is building contactless stickers that support NFC technology and can communicate with the handset through a Bluetooth connection.

With pent-up demand for NFC phones unsatisfied by the paltry selection of models expected through the first half of 2010, Twinlinx is getting a lot of interest for its planned MyMax sticker. Among them are transport operators and even a mobile carrier.

MyMax is designed to work with most phones and unlike passive stickers, the planned Twinlinx product could communicate directly with the phone and, therefore, with the mobile network and handset screen and keypad. It could also read data off of RFID tags—just like an NFC phone would. These features distinguish the more sophisticated stickers from passive stickers that only transmit data when powered up by external contactless readers.

This, however, presents a problem because it means the sticker requires its own power source. An initial trial of MyMax in the fall of 2009 with Paris Métro operator RATP ran into some battery problems, according to the operator.

Those battery issues are fixed, says Twinlinx. But perhaps the biggest drawback with the battery is that it adds significantly to the thickness of the sticker. In Twinlinx’s current prototypes, it accounts for nearly half of the 2.6-millimeter girth. The few prototype competing stickers, such as one from SCM Microsystems-funded Tranzfinity in the U.S. are even thicker.

But 2.6 millimeters is still too thick, so Twinlinx intends to slim down the sticker’s size as well as its price—to about 10 euros (US$14.10) apiece in significant volumes compared with up to 20 euros each when MyMax is introduced, expected by early 2010.

Twinlinx is also equipping the sticker to work on a range of handsets, including some well-known makes of smartphones. The sticker requires a small piece of software to run on the phones that host it and so the company has to make sure the software is interoperable across handset platforms.

Despite the challenges, Kowalski has raised nearly 3 million euros (US$4.5 million) since 2006. That is all the more impressive since he largely eschewing venture capital. VCs, eager for more revenue and a faster path to profits, forced him out at Inside in early 2006.

Besides grants from the French government, Twinlinx has picked up significant funding from such customers as RATP, smart card vendor Sagem Orga, and French mobile operator Bouygues Telecom.

Bouygues has pledged even more money if Twinlinx can deliver on the technology’s promise. The telco wants to issue them to subscribers to enable them to read RFID tags in smart posters to download content. At first, Bouygues would use the stickers to supplement NFC phones in a planned precommercial NFC launch in the French city of Nice in the spring of 2010. RATP also plans another trial, either using MyMax to emulate Navigo contactless fare-collection cards, read Navigo cards for reloading or both.

But besides the NFC and Bluetooth chips, MyMax could also pack smart card chips running Java Card and GlobalPlatform software, thus enabling service providers, such as transit operators and banks, to download applications over the air to the chips. Sagem Orga plans to put just such a chip in MyMax stickers it would market to customers next year. The stickers could potentially provide a secure element for mobile payment and ticketing applications in place of the SIM card in NFC phones.

Most observers, however, consider stickers only a “bridge” technology until full NFC arrives in phones. But until then, Twinlinx and any new competitors that spring up will likely find an eager customer base–provided they can deliver the goods.

Key figures: 
Investor Type Major Investors Amount
Pvt. investors Primaveris, Inside Contactless  (€150,000 in bonds), others 1 million
Grants and loans
French, Polish government, others
4 million
Customers RATP, Sagem Orga, Bouygues Telecom 400,000
Total Pledged    5.4 million
In euros

10 (As of Dec. 2009)

Key NFC Personnel: 
Jacek Kowalski, CEO
Eric Alzai, CTO
Steve Lewis, head of marketing and transport
Frank Edme, head of retail and banking
Major NFC and Contactless competitors: 

Wireless Dynamics, Bladox, Chunghwa Telecom/Foxlink

Last Updated: 
Dec 2009


Vivo Last of Major Chinese Smartphone Makers to Officially Launch NFC Pays Wallet

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Vivo, China’s second largest smartphone maker, made it official this week, launching its NFC-enabled “vivo Pay” wallet, the last of the major Chinese phone OEMs to roll out NFC payments–though their use has been disappointing, at least for payments in stores.

In-Depth: Fit Pay’s Troubles Indicate Difficult Business Case for Provisioning to Wearables

Sep 19 2019

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight –  Given the poor financial results of U.S.-based Fit Pay, it’s becoming clear that the business case for provisioning of payment cards to wearable devices remains difficult.

Analysis: Chase Pay Latest Bank Wallet to Shut Down; Why Did They Fail?

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Plans disclosed this week by JPMorgan Chase to shut down its Chase Pay app for in-store purchases is yet another nail in the coffin–perhaps the final one–for bank wallets in the U.S. And the situation does not look much brighter for bank-issued wallets abroad.

Miami Latest U.S. City to Introduce Open-Loop Transit Payments

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight Transit officials in Miami-Dade County, Fla. are the latest in the U.S. to introduce open-loop payments of fares with contactless credit and debit cards and bank card credentials on NFC wallets, launching the service yesterday on the city's relatively small metro network, with plans to expand to buses later.

UK Tram Riders Take to Tapping with NFC phones to Pay for Fares, According to Early Results

NFC TIMES Exclusive – Transport for Greater Manchester, which last month launched open-loop payments on its large Metrolink tram network, said Thursday that contactless credit and debit cards and NFC wallets accounted for a combined 170,000 rides during the first four weeks of the service.

In-Depth: NFC Wallet Use for Open-Loop Transit Grows but Still Makes Up Relatively Small Share of Contactless Payments

NFC TIMES Exclusive – When New York City transit officials announced Tuesday that the 1 millionth ride paid for through their new OMNY open-loop payments service had arrived ahead of schedule, they also proudly noted that 80% of the contactless payments had come from NFC wallets, not physical bank cards. 

PayPay Gets Off to Quick Start as One of Many Digital Payments Services in Cash-Loving Japan

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – As Japan continues to fight what to date has been a losing battle against cash, an announcement by the joint venture behind QR code-based payments service PayPay offers a little bit of encouragement. 

Research Firm Projects Use of NFC Mobile Wallets in U.S. to Remain Disappointing This Year

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – As Apple Pay approaches the fifth anniversary of its launch in the U.S., there is more research showing that most American consumers simply don’t see the value of tapping to pay with NFC-based payments services. 

In-Depth: Five Years After Transport for London Launched Contactless Across Its Transit Network, UK Open-Loop Rollout Remains Uneven

Aug 15 2019

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Five years ago next month, Transport for London introduced open-loop contactless payments across its transit network, including metro, trams and commuter rail, following an earlier launch on buses. The service now accounts for more than half of all pay-as-you-go journeys and has become a global showcase for the technology.

Apple Again Promises to Push Transit Ticketing as It Seeks Broader Adoption of Apple Pay

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – While noting to financial analysts late Tuesday that Apple Pay is now approaching 1 billion transactions per month globally and is in 47 markets, perhaps Apple CEO Tim Cook’s most significant comments about Apple Pay this week was to again emphasize that Apple wants to enable users to routinely tap to pay for bus, subway and other transit rides with their iPhones and Apple Watches. 

Chinese Mega Wallets Continue to Expand QR Code-based Transit Ticketing, while Major Agencies in West Stay with NFC

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight ­– China’s mega-mobile wallet providers have continued their rollouts of transit payments in China, with Tencent Holdings announcing Tuesday that two years after launching its first QR-code-based WeChat “Ride Code” service in Guangzhou, total users for its transit payments services has reached 100 million.

Sydney Transit Authority Gives Users of Contactless Bank Cards Nearly All Discounts They Get with Closed-Loop Opal Cards

Jul 29 2019

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Transport for New South Wales, Australia, the authority that oversees transit in and around Sydney, has taken a step toward phasing out its closed-loop contactless Opal fare card, today extending nearly all of the discounts it offers on Opal to users of open-loop Visa- Mastercard- and American Express-branded contactless cards.