Visa and Wireless Dynamics take accessory approach to iPhone NFC


Accessory + app approach being launched in Turkey, with more to follow

Visa Europe and Wireless Dynamics have developed a mobile contactless payment solution using an NFC accessory and an iPhone payment app working together. The solution, that uses an accessory containing the NFC secure element, could be regarded as a "bridging" technology to the deployment of full mobile NFC payments based on NFC-compatible handsets and SIM cards containing the NFC Secure Element.

iPhone users will need to attach a Wireless Dynamics iCarte accessory, which could be available through their bank or mobile operator, to their iPhone and then download the companion Visa Mobile application for iCarte App from the App Store. The iCarte accessory contains an antenna and an embedded Secure Element where the Visa mobile card is safely stored.

This “card”, in turn, works with an app from the App Store to enable payments on the iPhone. Once the Visa mobile card is activated, consumers can start making purchases by launching the app and touching their iPhone on any contactless-enabled point of sale terminal across Europe.

Visa Europe’s first deployment has been launched in collaboration with Yapi Kredi bank and Turkey’s largest mobile operator, Turkcell. Yapi Kredi customers equipped with a Turkcell mobile plan will be the first who can purchase directly from their iPhone at 40,000 contactless point of sale terminals in Turkey using their iCarte payment accessory. The product is also being used in the UK with Visa staff in London with partners FIS, a leading provider of prepaid platforms, and Coventry Building Society. To further commercialise the accessory, Visa Europe will engage its member banks and partner mobile operators in Italy, France, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey and the UK.

Although the accessory approach may look like a slightly clunky add-on, merely to access a quick and easy means of payment, it does have the advantage of meaning users can keep their existing and desired phone, rather than have to select an "NFC phone" from a more limited range. It also means operators do not need to distribute NFC SIMs, containing the secure element.

Another aspect of this approach worth noting is that Visa has kept the operators involved. "Bridging" approaches such as stickers and accessories, or SD-Card based approaches, can be seen as cutting out the mobile operator from the transaction and distribution model.

Sandra Alzetta, SVP, Head of Innovation at Visa Europe said, “Given that the availability of a wide range of mobile devices supporting contactless services remains a key hurdle for take-up, we are overcoming this by bringing the capability to the iPhones already in their pockets.”

Ambrose Tam, President and CEO at Wireless Dynamics commented: “Working with Visa Europe to commercialise our iCarte accessories is a leap forward in increasing the number and types of mobile payment solutions. We’ve worked hard to design and build a feature-rich and appealing product for our partners and iPhone users across Europe.”

The Wireless Dynamics iCarte accessory is compatible with iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS and iPhone3G on iOS 3.1 or higher. The iCarte Secure Element can be associated with multiple Visa accounts.