Mobile News puts NFC on trial

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Mobile News editor Michael Garwood heads to the Olympic Park to pick up some souvenirs paid for using Visa’s NFC service, payWave

Like many of the thousands, if not millions, of people who descended on London to soak up the 2012 Olympic Games last month, I too spent my fair share of hard-earned cash on ‘I was there’ souvenirs and memorabilia.

However, rather than use conventional methods of payment, such as cash or card, I used my mobile phone.

This was possible thanks to payments firm Visa, which selected Mobile News to test-drive its near field communications (NFC) wireless payment application and service, Visa payWave.

For those unfamiliar with the concept of NFC, from a user perspective it is actually very simple – a device, be it a card or handset, uses NFC technology to communicate with NFC-enabled terminals by touch.

It is a similar process to using an Oyster card on the London Underground or opening a security door with a card or a fob. Most people refer to NFC as a mobile wallet.

As reported in the last issue of Mobile News (522), NFC is a technology which has been spoken about at length for more than a decade, but it’s only now that real progress seems to be being made on its implementation.

NFC-ready handsets are beginning to appear, with key brands such as Samsung, Sony, Nokia, LG, HTC and BlackBerry (RIM) including the technology.

But having NFC is only half the battle. Devices require the right software to be able to carry out transactions, such as withdrawing money from a bank account safely and securely.

So while many customers may have made a decision to purchase a handset based on its NFC capabilities, many will not have been able to use these to date.

Visa hopes to rectify this with payWave, which for this trial was loaded on a Samsung Galaxy S III device.

Setting up my account was simple. Clicking the payWave application takes you through to the main menu where you are guided through the extensive security and account options. These require you to deposit a sum of money to use on the device.

Levels of security can be changed to suit. For example, payments for transactions of £20 and above automatically require a password. Security is on a par with what you would expect from online banking – PINs, usernames and passwords are all required. A password can also be set for payments under £20. I opted to include this.

This meant for every transaction I first had to open the application and select the ‘Authorise a Transaction’ option and enter my PIN before use.

This was a preference for the trial. Without this setting, simply connecting the device to a wireless reader would suffice, provided funds were available. Visa claims payments can be made using the technology on the device even if the battery is dead – although this wasn’t tested during this particular trial.

Also, should you lose your phone, the service can immediately be stopped via a secure online website – no need for long calls to the bank.

So, armed with £50 on my payWave account, I set off for my first experience of using NFC.

Full article in Mobile News issue 523 (September 24, 2012).

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