The ISIS Consortium has awarded the contract for running its NFC platform to Dutch specialist Gemalto, claiming that two thirds of proximity transactions will end up being routed through the company's service.
ISIS can make that claim as it counts AT&T, T-Mobile USA and Verizon as its members, and will be managing the deployment of secure applications using Near Field Communications, including proximity payment systems from the likes of Visa and MasterCard. That puts ISIS in competition with Google Wallet, and while ISIS may come late to the table it still plans on eating the biggest portion.
Near Field Communications is a short-range radio technology being built into high-end smartphones, amongst other things, and once it's linked to a secure element then it can be used to make payments with a tap of the phone. The location of that secure element is still open to debate - Google Wallet embeds it in the telephone, while ISIS would (unsurprisingly) prefer to see it embedded in the (operator-owned) SIM.
Gemalto makes SIMs capable of supporting an NFC secure element, but that's not part of this deal. This announcement is that the company will be providing management software, capable of securely communicating with applications (including payment applications) running within a secure element of any kind, and relaying that communications to a payment provider or similar.
So MasterCard might, for example, create an ISIS-compatible version of it's PayPass (proximity payment) application. MasterCard won't distribute that application, it will be the banks which offer it to their customers (just as credit cards are offered today). That application will be distributed to ISIS-compatible wallets, from when all communications will (for as long as this contract lasts) fall to Gemalto's Allynis Trusted Service Manager software.
No one is saying how much the deal is worth to Gemalto, or how long ISIS has committed to using the company's software, but Gemalto did tell us it's investing considerable resources into the USA to support the expected avalanche of users and that the contract is long enough for it to recoup that investment. ISIS expects the first users to come on line next year, but mass deployment will follow as the technology gets more support from handsets, and the general public.
But it is a big win for Gemalto: ISIS will probably be the world's biggest Trusted Service Manager for some time to come, so Gemalto is now in a very strong position to mop up a decent proportion of other NFC platforms as they launch around the world. ®