Discover to Launch Employee Pilot with NFC-enabled iPhone Attachment
Discover Financial Services plans to conduct a large employee pilot starting this month with an NFC-enabled iPhone attachment, iCarte, NFC Times has learned.
The pilot will be conducted with 400 to 500 employees who work at Discover’s headquarters office near Chicago and a regional office in Salt Lake City, Utah, said Troy Bernard, director of chip payment technology and mobile for Discover. It is believed to be the first test of the iCarte attachment in the United States.
Discover will preload its Zip contactless application onto the embedded secure chip in the NFC add-on, which is made by Canada-based Wireless Dynamics.
“The iPhone is still a huge constituent of the market,” Bernard told NFC Times. “A good number of your cardholders are going to be iPhone users. As a network, I need a certified (iPhone) option.”
Discover would use attachments that fit both the iPhone 4 and new iPhone 4S, as well as a couple of earlier iPhone models.
Employees would be able to tap wherever Zip is accepted, which is around 120,000 locations or more in the United States. They’ll also test a non-NFC based Discover offers service, which will enable them to download coupons that could be redeemed with certain merchants. The merchants will visually inspect the coupons or scan QR codes. Few merchants can accept NFC-based coupons, at present.
Discover employees are already testing the couponing service on Android and BlackBerry phones and also possibly on other iPhones. Discover is considering introducing a mobile offers service that it or its other issuers could brand, perhaps as part of a mini-wallet app on smartphones.
Discover is also interested in full NFC, and has said it would support both Isis and Google on their respective mobile wallets.
South Korean mobile operator KT announced last month it was rolling out the iCarte attachment to give its iPhone-bearing subscribers an option to pay with NFC. The telco has already launched contactless-mobile payment on full NFC phones
And last month Commonwealth Bank in Australia announced it would introduce the iPhone attachment in “coming months” for the iPhone 4 and 4S. The projects in South Korea and Australia both are apparently small commercial launches. They run or will run a MasterCard PayPass application, though MasterCard has not yet certified the iCarte, and neither has Discover.
The iCarte attachment carries a full NFC chip along with the embedded secure element, both from Netherlands-based NXP Semiconductors. It means the iCarte could be used to read tags and, possibly, conduct peer-to-peer communication.
The iCarte to date has also been trialed in Turkey, by mobile operator Turkcell and bank Yapı Kredi, which launched a payment pilot earlier this year using a Visa payWave application. Visa Europe employees also conducted an internal trial of the attachment in the United Kingdom. And MasterCard Worldwide has trialed the device with its PayPass application in Asia, at least internally.
As expected, Apple declined to build NFC into its new iPhone this year, so attachments, such as the iCarte and In2Pay iCaisse from DeviceFidelity, which most consider NFC bridge technologies, have a larger window of opportunity. The DeviceFidelity attachment uses a microSD card.
Discover’s Bernard said he didn’t consider the DeviceFidelity attachment for the new employee trial. “I’m not a fan of microSD as a standalone chip,” he said.
Discover only a year ago began rolling out its first contactless passive contactless stickers along with companion contactless cards. Bernard said Discover has received positive feedback from sticker users, but he added: “Consumers are still not clamoring for it.”