Samsung and Visa in "global alliance" to boost NFC technology and the mobile wallet

Many and varied indeed are the press conferences and announcements being made at gargantuan extravaganza that is Mobile World Congress 2013 in Barcelona. They vary in quality and in brevity of presentation with some companies driving the media to the brink of violent insurrection by trapping them in hot, airless, rooms, for up to three hours at a stretch whilst a parade of besuited corporate execs wax lyrical to impress their bosses and drone on and on and on to a captive audience about some gizmo or service or app that should have, could have and would have more impact if they had the common sense and self-control to cut down on the self-congratulatory verbiage and simply got to the bloody point!

However, not all are as bad as XXX and YYY (no names, no pack drill) that and yesterday one of the snappier and and more interesting announcements was that of Visa and Samsung (the company that ate Korea and most of the new Barcelona exhibition centre: Samsung's "stand" here has to be seen to be believed) are partnering to embed Visa PayWave technology into a suite of new, NFC-enabled mobile handsets.

Over the years there has been much talk about the 'mobile wallet' and NFC technology and there have been trials and even some short-lived services but the technology has been experimental and insufficiently robust for purpose and so the mobile wallet has yet to take the world by storm.

This time though, things might be different what with Samsung agreeing to incorporate the PayWave mobile payment app into upcoming handsets such as the Galaxy S4, and with Visa working to make it easy for users to tie the Samsung phones to their banks and personal accounts.

Under the terms of the agreement, Visa will preload its PayWave mobile payments applet onto embedded secure elements Samsung handsets, thus allowing banks and other financial institutions to use the Visa Mobile Provisioning Service securely and safely to download payment account information onto the embedded secure element over a wireless network. That's the plan anyway.

Jim McCarthy, the "global head of product" at Visa commented, “The key to making mobile payments broadly available all over the world is to offer financial institutions a secure way to provision millions of smartphones with payment account information – and that is exactly what Visa and Samsung are ready to deliver.” But then he would say that, wouldn't he?

According to Mr. McCarthy, "Visa and Samsung are working towards enabling banks and financial institutions to launch large scale mobile NFC payment programmes via which Samsung will provide banks and their ilk with the ability to load payment account information over the ether, to a chip embedded in Samsung smartphones, using Visa’s Mobile Provisioning Service linked to Samsung KMS (Key Management System)", which, it is claimed, will create "a secure data storage domains for issuers".

Both companies hope that their alliance will give NFC and the mobile wallet a much-needed fillip, and it certainly needs a boost. The latest Consumer Insights survey from research house Ovum shows that consumers rate mobile commerce and mobile banking way, way down on their list of favourite or even "maybe would like to have" apps. However, Visa points out that "contactless payments" have increased four-fold over the past year and there are now globally more than 13 million such transactions each month. But, if you compare that with the number of mobile phone owners and users around the world and it is evident that the mobile wallet is still a minor and very niche application used in rich, developed countries by rich subscribers.

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