It has been some time since we experienced the magic of the Olympics. The thrills of competition and the drama of the opening and other events of the games will be remembered for a long time. But for payment specialists it will also be remembered as the biggest NFC payment exhibition ever undertaken. Visa (one of the sponsors of the games) invested a lot of money to rig many outlets, vending machines and taxis with proximity accepting devices. Some reports indicate as many as 140 000 outlets.
Special prepared Samsung SIII phones with suitable SIM card was distributed to athletes, representatives of the media and other interested parties. Many of these people used the NFC phones successfully to purchase various articles in London during the games. The media gave very favourable feedback on the experience (Read here and here). One factor that was disappointing was the fact that the processing speed for a payment was not seen to be fast enough (less than 500ms) for the London Underground, so the NFC technology is not yet allowed there. (Read here).
So what does this mean? For a start, it was demonstrated (successfully) that a large eco-system of NFC payments could be rolled out in a real-world environment. This infrastructure will remain deployed and could potentially trigger a critical mass of payments. Furthermore, the educational value of the exercise should not be underestimated. Many members of the public are now aware (and in some cases are looking forward) that payments is possible by just tapping your phone. It is now up to the British banks to leverage the infrastructure and awareness and propagate the momentum. It would be a pity if one of the more exciting legacies of the Games are left to decay.