Monday, 14 February 2011

Contactless mobile payments closer to a reality

Over the last few weeks there have been a flurry of much firmer announcements suggesting there will be a significant roll out of Near Field Communications (NFC) services across the UK, but with a real focus on scaling up for the Olympics in 2012.

Google's Nexus S has been making a lot of headlines for a few months. Built as a mass market smartphone its integral NFC chip has got tongues wagging. However, two recent announcements have meant the NFC subject's exploded into life.

First was Orange's partnership announcement with Barclaycard that will mean Everything Everywhere customers will be able to take advantage of what is claimed to be the UK's first mobile payments service. NFC hasn’t been embraced by lots of brands yet, but is already installed in Pret a Manger, Little Chef and National Trust, however the roll out gathered pace with McDonalds announcing they would be implementing the technology and Everything Everywhere stated that the proposition could definitely extend to T-Mobile customers. With O2 having already tested mobile contactless transport payments as a replacement for Oyster Cards it's a fair assumption that they may well be next up as it would be a comfortable fit with their O2 Money product.

The second big announcement was from Apple who would appear to be shaping up to make mobile payments a key launch message for both the iPad 2 and the iPhone 5. The firm states that both devices are being built with NFC chips installed. It is more than likely the payment system would integrate with iTunes which already holds users' card details and while it's probably going to launch first in the states, pressure from payment service providers in the UK as terminals grow in number will see the move to the UK quickly.

This move to the UK will undoubtedly be galvanised by the 2012 Olympics which seems to be shaping up to be the 'mobile Games' with many of the food outlets and transport hubs aiming to be fully contactless enabled and also BlackBerry announcing their intentions to join the game.

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