Isis the m-payments platform is to launch in USA

Posted on October 19, 2012


i don’t like to do me too, news reporting as there are bazillions of sites / blogs that recycle however in this case I will comment on the news today as i think it is important.

There are many reports about Isis this week as it prepares a limited launch in test markets.

This is a significant time in the mobile money market,  and the likes of Isis and Oscar are looking to prevent the operators being squeezed out of the mobile money space.

AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless joined forces because in mobile money you either need 100% coverage or you need a very specialised service,  Isis is looking to provide you with a wallet on your phone, therefore it needs to be 100% coverage.

The service will hold one or more payment cards (eg Amex) on the device,  and will use NFC to present the card to the Point of Sale terminal.

The user will open the wallet app, enter their pin,  and then pay by swiping the hone over the reader.

There will be an option to change the card should you have several.

there is more to it than that though.

They want to support couponing,  so that when you pay,  any coupons you have are automatically applied,  which is a good idea, no faffing about with pits of paper, and indeed less embarrassment for the user,  because there are a lot of folks, for whom using a voucher is uncomfortable.

How will I get vouchers into my isis wallet,  well you”ll either have scanned NFC posters (by the way this means you have to be able to touch the poster, as NFC works at the 1 to 4 cm range.  Or you could scan QR codes using your camera from any kind of media where such a code is.

(as an aside because QR codes are en vogue at the moment, some advertising agencies are putting them in the last 2 seconds of TV adverts,  How mad is that,  and at low SD Res is is very hard to get your phone to pick it up,  even with a paused picture off your set top box,  I know I’ve tried.  so stop it advertisers,  it’s just a failure, and not a little embarrassing.)

Or you can “follow” brands etc,  and they will send you vouchers.

all this is likely to succeed,  there are loads of voucher companies springing up trying to move into this space,  and the digital wallet is the perfect host for a voucher scheme.

Lastly of course the system provides for loyalty cards, so that as the user is identified, their loyalty information is exchanged in the back end to allow for such schemes. Again this makes sense as it makes loyalty card activities frictionless.

The big question will come down to the charges that merchants will be charged,  because if they are too high then this scheme will be rejected by them.  Take for example the current pay on bill services from telcos such as Vodafone UK.  These have a 20% charge,  just about acceptable in the digital goods world,  but impossible in the physical retail world,  as companies such as Flirtamatic will tell you.

I do not have the low down on the fees,  do you ?

It does pose the question what will happen to the VISA and Mastercards of this world,  will it put them back into the niche areas they started out from,  more on this later.

Will isis succeed ?  I think in a large part this will be dependent on the take up of NFC capable phones, and this is unclear to me at the moment.
The systems like the natwest iPhone cover will not succeed at any scale,  the use of a cover is too much,  and it’s huge.  This is a good try, but not good enough.

However if the android and windows phones do come on stream with NFC,  and there is enough above the line advertising to tell users just how convenient and flexible the scheme is,  together with many more store/payment cards agreeing to join,  then is can succeed.