Isis Mobile Payments to Launch in September

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Posted 4 years ago

So, after many deliberations, security concerns and issues with the processing of transactions between carriers and credit card companies, mobile payment system Isis is finally set to launch. According to a news report put out by Bloomberg, the joint venture (JV) between AT&T Inc., Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile Inc., will make its debut this September (2012), well over a year since it was first launched.

When the roll out starts next month, Isis will initially be made available in Salt Lake City, Utah and Austin, Texas; Salt Lake City being chosen as Isis is partnered with the Utah Transit Authority and Austin selected for what Isis CEO Michael Abbot said in a statement published last year by the NFC Times was its “tech-savvy consumers and merchants”.

But is the September debut worth getting excited about? I mean the NFC (Near Field Communication) technology used for Isis is no longer a cause for much excitement, and Isis itself has been around for almost two years.

NFC no longer a force

A few years ago, before the formation of Isis, NFC was being hailed as the future, the technology that could see mobile payments do away with cash altogether; however, various hardware problems and impracticability has seen the technology take a back seat to other, better designed methods of paying by phone. A good example of NFC alternatives is Square’s mobile wallet app which lets you find registered merchants using GPS and Google Maps and pay hands-free. Square has also recently teamed up with Starbucks – the coffee chain investing $25 million in the company.

According to a story at VentureBeat, global e-commerce giant PayPal are also investing in mobile payment solutions and have partnered with Discovered financial services to bring PayPal to seven million stores in the United States by 2013.

On the NFC front, the biggest rival to Isis is Google Wallet, a payment system that has the advantage of coming to market earlier, but has worryingly failed to make any impact. Isis will have the advantage of being owned by three leading carriers, while Google Wallet is partnered with only Sprint.

Safety issues

Ever since NFC came to being, there have been many in the media ready to proclaim cash and card payments as being “dead”. However, with so many safety concerns surrounding mobile payments, our current favored methods of paying for goods shouldn’t be looking over their shoulders just yet.

Swiping credit cards is something we have done, and trusted, for years, and does not require much more effort than swiping a phone. Also, while using cash is never totally a secure way of paying for things, it requires a person to physically approach you and take your money. Mobile payments have people scared of identity theft. As founder of Javelin Strategy and Research Jim Van Dyke says in an interview with Bankrate.com, “Before America starts paying for everything via their mobile phones; there are some bugs that need to get ironed out. The biggest one is security, people think about safety and identity theft and all that all the time.”

He goes on, “Right now, there are major vulnerabilities in some mobile payments systems that could make customers reluctant to use them. That’s particularly true of the mobile apps that retailers such as Starbucks have created. When you have a phone with a Starbucks payment app, generally speaking that thing is in the ‘on’ position all the time.”

“It’s like walking through a parking lot and that car’s engine is running all the time and it is open. So if you leave your phone around and, assuming it is not password-protected, that app is ready for you to just charge away.”

When it launches next month, there is certainly room for Isis to exist in the mobile payments realm; however, becoming a success is far from guaranteed.

Anthony Carter

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