Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX), the mobile commerce joint venture put together by some of America's biggest retailers, has finally unveiled its payment network, promising a commercial launch next year.
MCX was set up in 2012 by merchants, including 7-Eleven, Target and Wal-Mart, to build a mobile wallet that would enable customers to make payments in-store through their handsets.
Working with tech partners FIS, Gemalto and Paydiant the group has now unveiled its CurrentC network, which will enable customers to pay with their mobiles at more than 110,000 US merchant locations.
Private pilots, already underway, will be ramped up during the rest of the year before regional and national rollouts in 2015. Free Android and iOS CurrentC apps are being prepped but participating merchants can also integrate the technology into their own apps.
Customers will be able to link their current accounts, as well as gift cards and branded debit and credit accounts to the app. They will then be able to make payments at the point-of-sale by scanning barcodes with their handsets.
The group argues that the barcode route - as opposed to technologies such as NFC and BLE - means that merchants can easily integrate the platform with existing POS systems, keeping costs down.
Users' sensitive financial information is stored in MCX's cloud vault rather than locally on the mobile device and the application uses a token placeholder to facilitate transactions instead of constantly passing the data between the user, merchant and financial institution.
With MCX focused as much on loyalty as payments, the app will store and automatically apply offers and coupons from participating merchants during the payment process.
Dekkers Davidson, CEO, MCX, says: "CurrentC will offer customers a simpler, faster, secure way to checkout at their favorite merchants. At full scale, CurrentC will be accepted in more than 110,000 merchant locations across the country, giving consumers unmatched access to their favorite retailers."
Although it has a strong network of retailers behind it, MCX faces stiff competition from the likes of Google, PayPal, Square and the newly branded Softcard consortium of telcos.
Most menacingly, next week Apple is set to enter the fray. The tech giant is understood to have Visa, MasterCard and American Express onboard for the launch of an NFC-based mobile wallet, widely expected to be announced at the unveiling of the iPhone 6 next week.