The payments network's new compliance testing system means that Visa can now certify other devices and phones with built-in NFC functionality "in a heartbeat", the company's head of mobile product development has told NFC World.
Visa Inc and Visa Europe have certified DeviceFidelity's In2Pay microSD NFC solution for commercial usage, marking the first time the payments network has included an NFC solution in its list of Visa compliant products.
"This is a historic milestone for Visa and its clients," says Bill Gajda, head of Visa Mobile. "In addition to issuing plastic magnetic stripe or chip-enabled payment cards, financial institutions can now consider offering their account holders a new technology that enables them to transform their existing phones into fully functional mobile payment devices."
The certification means that financial institutions now have the option of integrating Visa's mobile payment solution into their existing mobile applications and can also offer additional services such as Visa transaction alerts that notify account holders in near real-time of account activity, says the payments network.
The new compliance testing process includes a wide range of technical, security and usability tests to ensure that Visa transactions conducted with a mobile device are compatible with the global standard for chip-enabled payments. The compliance tests cover the phone, the secure element and the mobile payment application itself and also establishes a required signal range for all mobile contactless payments.
In order to certify the In2Pay device, Visa first needed to put a full compliance testing system in place that could be used to certify a wide range of NFC add-ons with a wide range of phones as well as being able to certify mobile phones with built-in NFC functionality, Dave Wentker, Visa's head of mobile product development, told NFC World. Now that this testing system is in place, the payments network can certify other devices "in a heartbeat", says Wentker.
As a first step, DeviceFidelity's In2Pay device has been certified to work with the BlackBerry Bold 9650, the iPhone 4, the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 3G and the Android-based Samsung Vibrant Galaxy S. Visa expects to add additional phone models for use with the technology in the near term, including phones based on the Symbian and Windows operating systems.
Certification of other add-ons also looks set to follow soon. Visa Europe, for instance, was demonstrating Wireless Dynamic's iCarte add-on for the iPhone at the Cartes tradeshow in Paris last week and a Visa Mobile for iCarte app is now available on the Apple app store.
Visa Europe also introduced a new Visa mobile gateway and key management service at Cartes. The pan-European service is designed to offer Visa issuers a secure connection between their issuing host systems — already connected to Visa's authorisation systems — and a Visa mobile payment application residing in the secure element on a handset. The service enables basic application and account management, including passcode or PIN reset, periodic updates of the Visa application for operations such as offline counter reset, and balance enquiry. Visa is also enabling the top-up of prepaid mobile applications through the system.
"Leveraging the advantages that mobile capability can offer to payments requires more than simply making the phone interact like a plastic card, and commercialisation requires many pieces of a complex jigsaw puzzle to be in place," says Sandra Alzetta, head of innovation at Visa Europe. "As NFC handsets and contactless accessories for existing phones become available and the contactless acceptance infrastructure grows, Visa is ensuring that the back-end technologies to support mobile contactless launches are designed for scale and maximum security."
"We know from extensive research and trials that whilst consumers strongly recognise the benefits of mobile payments, security is a concern," she adds. "This new service is designed to provide Visa issuers with tools to reassure consumers that mobile contactless payments are safe to use and to evolve from pilots to commercial roll-out."