Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Summer was a bit late for Isis

Isis is a wallet solution for many payment instruments that reside on your phone. It is a product supported by key mobile operators (Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile) with the prime objective to activate the NFC capabilities in mobile phones. The drive is to create an acceptance mark (Isis Ready, Pay and Go or Pay and Save) where Isis phone app can be used to pay.

Isis were planning to have the first deployments ready and start accepting transactions at the end of summer. Austin and Salt Lake City was selected as the first cities where the solution would be trialed. But unfortunately, some snags lead to delays. (Read here). Good news was that the delay was not too long with the promised launch taking place this month - a bit late for summer (but just) (Read here).

The reason why this offering is interesting (and probably on the right track) is that the security is based on a special SIM card. (In other words, the secure element resides on the SIM). It also seems that the participating operators have constructed a commercial model that could potentially work. This is much more likely to succeed than Google wallet.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

What did the Olympics do to mobile payments

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.

Some worthwhile Mobile Money Blogs to read

I started writing my mobile banking blog in 2006. Since then the number of blogs or websites that published mobile banking/mobile money articles on a regular basis exploded. I have blogged about some of these in the past, but have felt that it may be a good idea to publish a collection of the best ones that I am aware of. It is almost impossible to keep track of all the blogs, as almost every month sees the initiation of another source of information.

Unfortunately, the moneyblog domain: has not got anything to do with mobile money, but rather is a blog for entrepreneurs giving tips and articles on how to make money on the mobile web.
Quite a number of mobile money vendors publish blogs. These blogs are obviously biased towards specific products, but are still interesting reads. Blogs in this category are: Telepin, Roamware and Sybase. Of course, we are all biased towards some product or service and it is important to keep that in mind when reading a blog. By stating a preference for a specific vendor in the beginning is actually not a bad idea.

Other blogs are maintained by staff (or collaborators) working at NGO’s, like the industry-leading blog published by CGAP (and that I spoke about in a previous blog), the GSMA mobile money for the unbanked blog or some blogs published by the worldbank (like for instance this blog as an example).

There are regional blogs (just focusing on specific regions). Mobile money Africa is definitely worthwhile keeping track of. Not only is it a prolific publisher, but also seems to be able to pick up on the inside moves in the market well. Mobile money Asia is also a worthwhile blog that I have referenced recently.

Then there are the blogs published by individuals. The Mobile Payments blog published by Brandon McGee has been around for a long time and always seems to be able to produce a good summary of most important trends and announcements. (the information do seem to be US-centric). A blog that sometimes touch on mobile money and that I personally enjoy reading is Digital Money Blog by Dave Birch. His writing style and insights is really worthwhile reading. Philippe Lerouge is a prolific blogger on mobile payments. Unfortunately his blog "le paiement mobile" is in French, but still worth a read (even using Google translation services). Also read Simon Lelieveldt's blog on Payments and Money.

Other blogs not mentioned are:
Mobile Payments World.
Payments News.
Mobile Payment Magazine
ePayment News

Keep on reading

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The future of your money is Orange

 In June, Orange announced that they have crossed the threshold of four million mobile money subscribers. With deployments in ten countries (Côte d’Ivoire, Botswana, Cameroon, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Niger, Senegal and lately in Jordan and Mauritius) the service now have a penetration of 14% of the target base. (Read here).This is an example of a slow consistent growth in mobile money subscribers throughout Africa and the Middle-East. Mobile money solutions are available in most countries in this region and number of subscribers have grown to a few hundred million.

What is interesting in the case of Orange is a recent announcement (in about the same time frame) that Orange mobile money subscribers will now also have access to Visa payment infrastructure (Read here). This is another example of activation of Visa Mobile Prepaid and an indication that the strategy of Visa in this space is getting some momentum.