Contactless in Austin: The future is here

I spent the last 7 days using a Samsung Galaxy S4 phone equipped with NFC and the Isis mobile wallet to pay for a lot of things. Sponsored by Gemalto as part of their Contactless Challenge, I got pretty comfortable using the phone to pay for things like meals, haircuts, movies and more. Over the course of those seven days, I had no issues using this new technology.

Going into the challenge I had reservations about any of this working. To say that my expectations were low is an understatement. So why would I agree to do this challenge if I thought the technology would fail? Good question. I think I really wanted to believe it would work, I love the idea of being able to leave my wallet at home and only carry my smartphone. It would be liberating. I’m also passionate about technology and an early adopter of things. I’m okay with something is rough around the edges.

For the challenge I used an Android phone which had NFC built-in. My own personal phone is an iPhone 5 which does not support NFC. There are plans to produce a snap on case which supports the capabilities and features required to make NFC work on the iPhone. I got to play around with a prototype during the Whole Foods challenge and it worked perfectly. I’m all over that when they release it which hopefully will be soon.

This is an iPhone 4 inside a special case which gives it NFC and Contactless Payment support.

This is an iPhone 4 inside a special case which gives it NFC and Contactless Payment support.

When I was at Whole Foods, one of the cashiers mentioned that the American Express cards which have wireless chips in them process very slowly. She thought the Isis enabled phones were the fastest form of payment that a customer could use. They go through very quickly. I agreed.

This technology is ready for mainstream. In fact the only real thing holding it back is that not all merchants accept it. I see that changing over time as merchants upgrade their credit card terminals to ones that support wireless forms of payment. This will happen automatically but it could take a while before it is ubiquitous. Until then its like trying to use a Diner Club Card. Nobody really accepts it.

The stakes are high for wireless payment. Companies like Google and Square are also trying to own a share of this market with their own solutions. If I had to bet now I’d say that Isis is the standard that we’ll all be using a few years from now. Maybe even sooner.

By joshkerr

Josh is an 8x startup founder and angel investor.

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