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Isis picks Austin for second NFC pilot

The Isis NFC joint venture between AT&T MobilityVerizon Wireless and T-Mobile USA has chosen the city of Austin, Texas as the site of its second test.

Isis

The decision to add Austin as a second test market alongside the previously announced Salt Lake City pilot followed an investigation into 35 to 40 US cities, Isis CEO Michael Abbott has told the Austin Statesman:

In deciding on test markets, Abbott said Isis examined 35 to 40 cities, looking for demographics such as youth and high education levels.

“Basically early adopters,” he said. “Somebody that was willing to change, willing to see the future, willing to take that chance to do it differently. Austin came right to the top of the list.”

Most smartphones don’t have near-field communication capability, but Abbott predicted that as newer models hit the marketplace, it will become more commonplace.

Officials with the venture are working with local merchants to encourage adoption of the new system. Isis officials demonstrated the technology to Austin merchants Tuesday at the Alamo Drafthouse theater on South Lamar Boulevard.

Mike Martinez, an owner of Ben White Florist, called it incredible. He plans to incorporate the technology in his shop.

“People in Austin, they want to do business with businesses that are up with the times. They don’t want to do business with people who do business the old-fashioned way. I have employees that are between the ages of 18 and 22. They have no idea what a personal check is.”

Isis plans to roll out the Austin pilot during the first half of 2012. The city, no stranger to NFC, has also played host to trials of Google’s NFC-based HotPot marketing service and Bling Nation’s FanConnect.

Isis recently fundamentally changed the way it plans to bring NFC to market. Isis’ original plan, announced in November 2010, called for the venture to develop its own mobile payments service, in competition with the existing payments networks, and to recruit its own merchants for the new service.

Rather than competing with banks and payments networks, however, the new plan calls for Isis to work with the payments industry to enable US card issuers, brands and merchants to offer NFC-based services to the subscribers of Isis’ founder mobile network operators.

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