Visa and Bank Launching MicroSD Card Trial in French NFC Cities

Jun 30 2011

Visa Europe and Groupe BPCE, one of France’s largest banks, are launching a trial of mobile payment with the iPhone, Samsung’s Galaxy S and two BlackBerry Bold models, using contactless microSD cards.

The trial will take place in the first two cities that French mobile operators and the French government, among others, are using to showcase NFC technology built into mobile phones.

Visa and BPCE plan to hold their trial in Nice and Strasbourg among a combined 500 users, who will get microSD cards preloaded with a Visa payWave application. They’ll insert the cards into their phones–or into a specially designed case for the iPhone–and tap the smartphones to pay for purchases of up to €20 (US$28.29) without entering a PIN. Organizers have released a video on the trial.

The microSD cards would enable the bank to bypass French mobile operators and their NFC-enabled SIM cards, which are the required secure chips for payment applications in the Nice NFC project. Organizers are planning to expand the Nice project, which launched in May 2010, to the eastern French city of Strasbourg in the fall and then to other cities.

Banque Populaire and Caisse d’Epargne, which make up the BPCE banking group, are also interested in full NFC and are members of the Association Européenne Payez Mobile with other French banks and mobile operators. The association sets rules and specifications for NFC-based mobile payment in France.

But neither Banque Populaire nor Caisse d’Epargne have yet introduced a payment application on full NFC phones in Nice. Banks Crédit Mutuel-CIC and BNP Paribas launched payment in Nice last fall, followed by Crédit Agricole.

Banque Populaire and Caisse d’Epargne were among seven banks that participated in an NFC trial in Strasbourg and also in the city of Caen starting in late 2007. There are still contactless merchant locations from the trial in Strasbourg, which BPCE and Visa can use for their microSD card trial. The same is true of the approximately 1,500 merchant locations that take Visa payWave and MasterCard PayPass in Nice for the NFC project.

One of the results of the more than year-old Nice NFC project is that users “prefer a more compelling device,” Deepak Jain, CEO of DeviceFidelity, which produces the microSD cards and iPhone attachments for the new trial, told NFC Times.

He contends that DeviceFidelity can deliver that in France by giving the iPhone–including the 4, 3GS and 3G models–along with the Galaxy S and BlackBerry Bold 9700 and 9780 a contactless interface. The Galaxy S and BlackBerrys require extra antennas stuck to inside back covers to boost power to the microSD cards, which come embedded with their own tiny antennas.

In Nice, there has only been a single NFC phone model available for the telco-led project, the Samsung S5230, Player One, and only about 20% of the roughly 3,000 of the phone model sold among the major French operators in Nice have been activated for NFC services.

Vincent Barnaud, director of mobile-contactless services for France Telecom-Orange Group, which is a leader of France’s rollout of NFC, said more NFC phones are coming. The telco put the Samsung Wave 578, which runs Samsung’s bada smartphone operating system, on sale this month. Orange expects to have up to 10 NFC models in its French shops by year’s end, including one or more BlackBerry and Android phones. All will support secure applications on SIM cards.

Barnaud said the microSD card trial would have little impact on NFC rollouts in France. The trial is intended to garner publicity for the bank and Visa, he remarked.

“It is a trial for 500 users and a nice way to get a lot of people to talk about both companies,” he told NFC Times. “It shows that contactless is a hot topic. (But) it will not be part of the commercial cityzi ecosystem.” The French telcos and other NFC backers have branded their NFC services “cityzi.”

Visa has held contactless microSD card trials with major banks in the United States, as well as those in Turkey and Australia and has certified several smartphones for use with the technology.

U.S.-based Bank of America has expanded its trial to about seven BlackBerry handsets and also supports MasterCard PayPass, in addition to Visa payWave, on the cards it hands out to customers in New York, San Francisco and Atlanta, along with Charlotte, N.C., and Dallas.

DeviceFidelity’s Jain considers the Bank of America project a commercial launch, although most would call it a trial since not all customers who apply for microSD are sent them. He said another major U.S. bank plans a “rollout” contactless microSD cards in the fourth quarter, though declined to elaborate. Akbank in Turkey has also expanded its microSD card project with Visa, said Jain.

Jain also declined to give the price of the microSDs, though said the cost for the contactless functionality and software on the cards would add less than $10 to the cost of a standard microSD card with the same memory. The vendor's cards come with low gigabyte sizes, however. And a version incorporating a full NFC chip, which could be used for tag reading in addition to payment has not yet been trialed.

ANZ bank in Australia, which launched a trial with Visa in March in Melbourne and Sydney among 50 employees, reportedly said in a statement it would “not be progressing with microSD as a contactless payment technology platform,” according to an article Monday in ZDNet. ANZ reportedly concluded that the microSDs didn't meet the bank's needs. The trial involved the iPhone.

Update: ANZ and Visa issued a statement Wednesday. While not mentioning the earlier reported statement by the bank that it would not pursue microSDs for mobile payment, the new statement said that nearly 90% of trial participants believed the pilot met or exceeded their expectations.

The statement said more than 90% of participants–which were made up of employees of the bank and Visa's Australia country office–liked the idea of making payments with their phones, whatever the technology. But it added that close to 80% of the participants said they would consider getting a Visa payWave-enabled MicroSD. 

But according to other reports, an ANZ spokesman said the bank is taking a “wait-and-see approach” to the technology, though it was not clear whether he was talking about microSD cards or contactless-mobile payment in general, including from full NFC phones. End update.  

DeviceFidelity’s Jain said he hadn't heard of dissatisfaction with the trial in Australia.

“We are confident that it’s not a problem with the technology; it’s not a problem with a solution,” he said. “We’re trying to find out what exactly is the reason for the conclusion.”

 

HEADLINE NEWS

Regulations Take Effect in China to Limit Risk of Static QR Codes Used by Alipay, WeChat Pay and Others

Apr 4 2018

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Daily limits on QR code- and bar code-based transactions in China have taken effect–mainly hitting Ant Financial and its rival Tencent Holdings­, providers of respective digital payments services Alipay and WeChat Pay.  

Apple Pay Finally Enables Transit Ticketing in Beijing and Shanghai, but It May be Too Late to Turn Back QR Code-Based Wallets

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – After being beaten by rival handset makers Huawei, Xiaomi and even Samsung to the launch of NFC transit ticketing in China, Apple today finally began enabling riders in two major cities, Beijing and Shanghai, to tap to pay fares using closed-loop transit ticketing cards.

China UnionPay Seeks to Bolster Use of Brand for Mobile Payments Overseas; Will It Make a Difference?

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – China’s dominant bank card network, UnionPay, which is badly losing its battle for mobile payments market share among Chinese consumers to rivals Ant Financial and Tencent Holdings–both at home and abroad–is taking steps to try to gain some ground.

Japan Begins Overdue Move to Standard NFC Acceptance

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Japan was the first country to roll out contactless-mobile payments–starting in 2004–but it still does not accept standard, internationally interoperable NFC payments to any real extent, unlike most developed markets.

Google Seeks to Sign Up More Merchants for Tez App in India as Competition Heats Up

Mar 21 2018

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – SINGAPORE: Google is seeking to sign up more small merchants and encourage more retail payments with its Tez mobile payments service in India, an app now mainly used for peer-to-peer funds transfers.

Apple Pay Could Get More Single-Tap Rewards in Next Few Months but Technology is Not Proving Easy to Roll Out

NFC TIMES Exclusive – Restaurant loyalty platform vendor Punchh could enable its delayed single-tap loyalty and rewards service with Apple Pay in the second quarter of this year at as many as six quick-service and fast-casual restaurant chains, the vendor told NFC Times.

Visa Sees Range of Use Cases for QR Code-Based Payments, as It Seeks to Address Threat from New Payments Players

NFC TIMES Exclusive – Visa, which last summer announced it would introduce QR code-based payments to Taiwan by the end of this year, has recently briefed Taiwanese bankers on the planned architecture, use cases and some other details of the technology, NFC Times has learned.

Russian Telco MegaFon Makes Play in Mobile Payments Market With Virtual Bank Cards

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Russian telco MegaFon began issuing virtual Mastercard-branded bank cards yesterday, which its users can add to Apple Pay or Samsung Pay mobile wallets.

Google Gets Support for Its Underused Smart Tap Technology from POS Terminal Supplier Ingenico

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Google has not yet given up on technology it bought from the now defunct Softcard joint venture more than three years ago to try to boost use of its rebranded NFC mobile wallet, Google Pay, formerly Android Pay.

Analysis: Google Launches Google Pay Rebrand, as It Seeks to Enable Payments Across Multiple Channels and Devices

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Google began rolling out its previously-announced set of Google Pay services Tuesday in what is primarily a rebrand of Android Pay and other Google payments features. The initiative supports Google’s long-held goal of making payments seamless across its various products and access points.

Can Luxury Watchmaker TAG Heuer Sell Swiss Precision Along with NFC Payments? Its Latest Smartwatch Again Supports Android Pay

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – While payments wearables, in general, are taking off more slowly than expected, a number of manufacturers are incorporating the feature in their high-end watches and that includes Switzerland-based luxury watchmaker TAG Heuer.

Hong Kong Banking Group JETCO–Former Backer of NFC–Launches QR Code Payments Service

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Hong Kong ATM and interbank group JETCO is the latest provider to launch a QR code-based payments service for in-store transactions in Asia, with payments coming out of the consumers’ bank accounts. But the group has few if any merchants live yet.