Visa is planning trials of microSD-based NFC chips in Nice, working with French bank Groupe BPCE to put payments into the pockets of punters without reference to the network operators.
The trial will use iPhone cases containing the NFC radio and antenna, as well as the microSD slot for the secure element, according to NFC Times. It also notes that the Samsung Galaxy S and a pair of BlackBerrys will also be used in the trials.
The technology comes from Device Fidelity; the company's microSD solution packs a secure element and NFC radio into the chip, although all the devices in the trial need an additional antenna to get the signal out of the box (contained in the iPhone case, or stuck to the inside of the Samsung and BlackBerry battery covers). The lack of NFC devices makes such bodging necessary.
Device Fidelity and Visa have an interest in promoting the microSD as the ideal location for the secure element, which will otherwise rest in the SIM (controlled by the network operator) or the handset (controlled by the manufacturer).
In Visa's perfect world, the secure element goes on a microSD supplied by Visa, and when the customer changes network and/or handset the microSD card comes with them.
That means proving to the industry, and the users, that the technology works which is the motivation behind the trials, which follow tests in the USA.
Tests of the same technology in Australia have been less successful, with ZDNet reporting that ANZ Bank has shelved its own trials with Visa.
According to the bank, customers want proximity payments, but not using microSD – which is a shame as the additional case/antenna probably put them off, rather than the cards themselves.
Those cases and antennas are supposed to be temporary: once handsets have in-built support for NFC, then Device Fidelity plans to reduce its chips to contain just the secure element.
Ideally that would come with OS-level support, though that is not strictly necessary depending on the OS. However, it does need devices that have both a microSD slot and an NFC capability, which is a shame when Google's Nexus S seems to have dumped the former to make space for the latter. ®