A quick review of who has launched widely commercially available open-loop proximity payment (NFC) solutions for the UK market.
Firstly there is Everything Everywhere (EE) – they launched Cash on Tap in 2013 which is a slightly evolved version of the initial Orange QuickTap implementation. To get this to work you need: an Android EE Monthly Contract Phone (with EE Basebuild OS);
a “N” SIM (meaning it is capable of storing NFC Payment Applets); and the EE Cash on Tap App (from Google Play). EE Cash on Tap is backed by a Visa Prepaid Account – when you install the App it gives you £5 of Credit and if you Top the Account up it will
add an additional £5 as a reward (first time only). You can use EE Cash on Tap wherever you see the Visa PayWave or Contactless Payment Symbol – and is also accepted on Transport for London.
Next there is Vodafone Wallet – initially launched this year using a similar approach to EE – in that it is also backed by a reloadable Visa Prepaid Account. Where this differs is that Vodafone have worked closely with trusted third party software suppliers
to enable other Cards to be Tokenized and stored on the SIM (a similar approach to ApplePay but using UICC/SIM rather than eSE). To get this to work you need: an Android Vodafone Monthly Contract Phone (with Vodafone Basebuild OS); a “N” SIM (meaning it is
capable of storing NFC Payment Applets); and the Vodafone Wallet and Vodafone SmartPass Apps (from Google Play). You can use Vodafone Wallet wherever you see the Contactless Payment Symbol – and is also accepted on Transport for London.
Lastly there is ApplePay – which is currently only supported using iPhone 6, iPhone 6+ and the Apple Watch. This follows a radically different approach – in that Payment Card Data is Tokenized and stored in the Embedded Secure Element (or in Apple Language:
Secure Enclave) – in order to activate the NFC Payment a user use Biometrically verify themselves (fingerprint on the iPhones or Pulse Signature on the Apple Watch). Whilst this does increase the security slightly it does mean the user experience is not as
slick or as fast as the EE or Vodafone Approaches listed above – for example – there have been many publicised issues regarding use on TfL. ApplePay does also rely on the Card Issuer’s support to implement. ApplePay has also introduced the concept of “High
Value Contactless Payments” – which move beyond the £20/£30 arbitrary limit on Contactless transactions – this is available at a small number of merchants – for example Pret-a-Manger.
So what? Where do we want this technology to lead? Well I for one would like to see more UK Issuers embracing this technology - not just from a Point of Sale point of view but other channels such as the ATM, Self Service machines and Kiosks to help create
more positive consumer user experiences where the mobile is used.
Will 2015 (and 2016) be the year(s) Mobile Proximity payments begin to take off? I certainly hope so. Here's to the future.