Samsung and Visa are joining forces to offer smartphone users the ability to make mobile payments through NFC technology in London next year as part of the 2012 Olympic games.
Using special Samsung Olympic and Paralympic Games mobile phones, attendees in London before and during the games will be able to buy items on the go through near-field communications, an emerging technology that lets people send payments by phone directly from their bank accounts to special terminals.
Samsung and Visa join a growing number of companies hopping onto the NFC bandwagon. Dangling the lure of wallet-free purchases, an array of mobile carriers and financial institutions have been planning their own mobile payments services around the world. And the list of interested parties keeps getting longer.
The NFC Forum, a nonprofit group designed to promote the technology, said today that it has welcomed aboard 32 new member companies, including Google as a principal member, the second highest-level of membership in the group. With its Nexus phone already outfitted with NFC hardware, Google has been actively partnering with other companies to roll out a mobile payment service.
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One major player still missing from the NFC party is Apple. Doubts have been raised as to whether the upcoming iPhone 5 would include NFC technology. If Apple doesn't go the NFC route with the next-generation iPhone, as some sources report will be the case, that could put a drag on the progress of the technology.
Interviewed by CNET sister site ZDNet Australia, PayPal's director of mobile, Laura Chambers, said that manufacturers and merchants have been slow in general to adopt NFC systems because of market uncertainty. She sees NFC being at least a year away as a mainstream technology and said that the technology could use a boost from the trend-setting iPhone.
"You need that first trigger for [retailers and merchants] to follow," Chambers said.
The Samsung-Visa partnership could prove to be a step in the right direction. As sponsors of the Olympic event, Samsung will outfit the phones with the NFC hardware and Visa will supply the necessary mobile app. The special mobile phones will be available prior to the games for consumers to purchase through mobile carriers and will also be provided to Olympic athletes sponsored by Samsung and Visa, the two companies said.
To make payments at participating stores and vendors around London, users just need to hold the phone in front of an NFC-equipped reader at the time of purchase. The city itself already boasts more than 60,000 different locations where Visa's mobile contactless payments are accepted, according to the company.
"Visa, like Samsung, shares the vision of leveraging our Olympic and Paralympic Games sponsorship to leave a lasting legacy in the market for banks, retailers, mobile operators, and consumers," Visa Europe CEO Peter Ayliffe said in a statement. "We are not only breaking new ground for Olympic partnerships, we are committed to enabling consumers to connect with mobile and contactless payments technology for 2012 and beyond."
Beyond the Olympic games, Samsung and Visa said they plan to work with other mobile carriers and financial companies to offer the mobile payments system worldwide. Visa's own contactless payment system is currently rolling out in several countries, including the U.S., France, Italy, Spain, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
"This mobile payment device will be available in the U.K. initially, and we plan to expand the service to other countries in Europe and around the world where contactless payment facilities are available in the near future," Seokpil Kim, President & CEO of Samsung Electronics Europe, said in a statement.