A Timely Answer to the Isis Challenge

by George Peabody 0

Now that Isis, the mobile operator payments joint venture, islaunched and intending to make NFC payments a reality, one of themajor questions hanging in the air is “what are the banks going todo?” A couple of vendors have teamed up to help banks answer thatquestion for themselves. And it is an interesting couple.

Monitise calls itself a “mobile money solutions” provider.Originally launched in the UK, Monitise has been offering mobilebanking and remittances for a number of years, has productionsystems in the UK and USA handling “100 million mobile inquiriesand transactions a year.”

ViVOtech’s stock-in-trade has always been contactless payments.Its line of contactless payment terminals are in a number ofmerchant’s hands. Its contactless sub-assemblies are built intopayment terminals from the top manufacturers.

But this announcement is about ViVOtech software. The companyhas always realized that mobile payments, in particular, requiresan ecosystem build to be successful because the card issuingprocess is so different. There’s no card. The payment accountcredentials are delivered over the air (OTA) to a secure hardwareelement in the phone, either built directly into the phone or on aSIM card or microSD card.

This OTA provisioning function as well as security management isprovided by an entity called the Trusted Services Manager (TSM).The TSM is responsible for getting card credentials to the handset,updating them as necessary and acting as a critical go-between forissuers and the mobile operators. That’s the role ViVOtech softwareis playing in this partnership.

The Isis JV will, no doubt, have its own TSM facility. It’sunlikely to provide access to a competing TSM like ViVOtech’soffering. I’ve written elsewhere on the potential balkanization of NFC. The TSM is yet another barrierto interoperability. The success of the Monitise / ViVOtech tie-upwill hinge on how urgently financial institutions respond toIsis.

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