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Zenius enables NFC contactless payments on GSM phones

Near Field Communication software company Zenius Solutions has launched an NFC add-on software product for GSM phones enabling interactive NFC capability on mobile phones currently in market.

The software product supports multiple user-controlled NFC applications, as well as remote provisioning of NFC applications. Zenius software is compatible with MasterCard PayPass, Visa payWave, American Express ExpressPay and Discover Network Zip EMV, as well as non-EMV contactless transactions. The NFC product enables the installed base of millions of GSM mobile phones to be retrofitted for interactive NFC.

“Smartphone users are early adopters of cutting edge technology,” said Jenny Rae Cortese, vice president of marketing at Zenius, Silicon Valley, CA. ” The first phase of roll-out will be a pilot phase with issuers, merchants and other mobile marketers.

“Many of them will brand the actual physical product as well as the mobile interface,” she said. “We actually support additional platforms (BlackBerry, Android and many other GSM phones), but we recommend to our partners that they focus their pilot on the attractive smartphone segment (specifically, Blackberry and/or iPhone) for simplicity and the highest splash value.”

Zenius Solutions is a provider of software-as-a-service for in the contactless payments/NFC ecosystem.

In addition to mobile applications, Zenius offers portable, affordable applications and frameworks for embedded ICs, NFC add-ons, POS terminals and network service providers.

NFC payment capability is achieved by adding a Bladox Waver product running ZeniusMobilePay software to supported GSM phones.

The Zenius-enabled Bladox Waver product fits into the phone’s SIM slot along with the original SIM card.

The add-on integrates with wallet applications on the mobile phone, letting consumers control and access multiple applications with the same functionality available in NFC-capable phones.

That would enable brands—from big-box retailers to quick-service restaurants and taxi cabs—to ramp up their mobile contactless payments initiatives.

Real Zenius
Zenius software loads multiple interoperable applications—such as transport and other ticketing, payments and coupons—remotely onto the Waver.

Zenius supplies EMV and non-EMV payments software, as well as a suite of closed-loop applications, to mobile wallet providers, issuing banks, merchants and add-on hardware manufacturers.

Zenius recently released software to emulate and accept contactless payment cards on Nokia NFC capable phones.

Zenius’s Bladox Waver can interface with platforms such as Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android, and RIM’s BlackBerry.

Zenius does not have a direct partnership with AT&T or Apple, instead moving forward on a direct-to-consumer product play, although the company hinted such partnerships could be on the roadmap.

“Part of the power (for banks, merchants, etcetera) of what we offer is that neither carriers nor manufacturers are required for us to have access to the phone and the data inside the Secure Element,” Ms. Cortese said.

“We do foresee a day where the applications will be loaded via tap onto or link with your computer (sync), tap on smart posters (wave), OTA (via carrier, Bluetooth, WiFi, etcetera), and will launch those functionalities in 2010,” she said. “For now, the secure applications are pre-loaded before the customer receives the tag (like your credit card).”

Retailers that currently offer open-loop technology for compatibility with major credit card brands’ contactless payments platforms include Walgreen’s, McDonald’s, CVS, Best Buy, Home Depot, 7-11, AMC Theaters, Cold Stone Creamery and Yankee Stadium, home of the New York Yankees.

“However, for those that don’t, Zenius offers the capabilities to bring them on board – not only for open-loop, but for gift cards, loyalty, couponing, etcetera,” Ms. Cortese said. “Think transportation tickets too, where large cities in the U.S. (and almost all abroad) offer contactless technology.

“Most of these guys installed those terminals waiting for the day when mobile payments will be a reality,” she said. “With the ability for the consumer to make mobile payments, more merchants will come on board.”

Zenius emerged from stealth mode six months ago. It is not currently running marketing campaigns to get the word out, focusing for the moment on business development.

“We will grow organically through press and guerilla tactics until we can’t handle the capacity, and then we’ll likely move to a more formal approach,” Ms. Cortese said. “Our ability to supply product direct to consumer is still in its early phases, so right now we are working in partnership with banks and merchants.

“It’s like the early days of Microsoft – they were embedded software inside hardware products, and the hardware products were branded,” she said. “Only later could you (the consumer) buy an OS separately.

“Anyone interested in the technology can work with Zenius directly, for the time being.”

So, inquiring minds want to know, what is the state of contactless mobile payments in the U.S.?

“The industry is in its infancy, but that’s because the offerings out there are not secure or not interactive or not easy for the customer to use, for example having to type in 16 card numbers and expiration dates,” Ms. Cortese said. “Our solution addresses all of these issues—we are secure, interactive and streamlined.

“Just imagine a world where the marketers of the world can offer you credit, loyalty, gift cards, coupons, drivers’ license and transport tickets directly to your mobile phone,” she said. “What a wonderful world this will be.”