An up-and-coming payments technology
vendor has created a way for smart phones to make contactless
credit and debit card payments and for merchants to accept near
field communication (NFC) payments.
Zenius Solutions, a California startup, is
marketing a pair of solutions aimed at enabling any mobile platform
to support contactless transactions – ZeniusMobilePay, which
enables NFC phones to send payments, tickets and coupons to a POS
system or other payment acceptance mechanism and ZeniusMobilePOS,
which allows merchants to accept contactless payments from any
“We’re at the right time, in the right place,”
John Wiese, Zenius’ president and CEO,
told EPI. “People want to embrace this technology, but in-house
solutions are too expensive in this economy. The idea from a vendor
perspective is to get as many people supplying terminals, mobile
wallets and software to adopt the NFC engine.”
The Zenius payments product features two
components. One part fits into a phone’s existing SIM card slot and
is linked by a flexible cable to another section that includes the
NFC chip and antenna that can be attached to the outside of the
phone, though most phones don’t require the cable. Zenius provides
the software solution which combines with the hardware – from
mobile phone technology developer Bladox SRO of the Czech Republic
– to enable NFC on any GSM mobile phone.
The setup enables users to make contactless
payments at the POS and to manage their various card accounts
through a mobile wallet application that consumers can install on
“Until we get NFC-enabled phones, we need an
interim solution,” Wiese said. “We have millions of devices out
there that can and will make NFC payments with a relatively simple
fix, and the applications are vendor-neutral, so it doesn’t care
what kind of smartphone you have.”
The application can work with MasterCard,
Visa, Discover and American Express cards, Wiese said, adding that
he envisions a portal not unlike the Apple App Store, where
consumers can manage payment types online and add capabilities.
While several financial institutions have
piloted phones with NFC chips that deliver contactless payment
capabilities, the market awaits widespread deployment of
Some companies have sold stickers that have
contactless-payment features and are commonly attached to phones as
an interim solution, but they do not actually communicate with the
Zenius’ system provides an easily-installed
way to make NFC payments for consumers who already own smartphones,
and might not be interested in replacing them when new models
become available with built-in NFC chips, Wiese said.
ZeniusMobilePOS is being marketed as a way for
merchants to accept contactless US and EMV bank card payments and
will also handle a variety of contactless couponing, ticketing,
transport and other applications, Wiese said.
Making it easy
Part of the appeal, he said, is in
simplifying the process for merchants and bank acquirers.
“Say a bank wants to do a closed-loop card
programme, and they want to add loyalty and ticketing,” he
“Today, they would have to add those by
writing specs and going out to the merchant terminal and have them
implement it, then going to the card manufacturer and having them
implement it and then the back office side… it really gets to be a
lot of people involved and it becomes pretty daunting for the
So Zenius provides a software solution that
provides all the necessary implementation to enable the merchant
terminal to accept NFC payments with the flip of a switch – cutting
several time-consuming steps out of the process, Wiese said.
ZeniusMobilePOS is currently running on Nokia
6131 and 6212 handsets, but can be ported to additional hardware
platforms upon request. The company also provides libraries under
the Zenius Contactless Payment Acceptance application programming
interface to allow the easy addition of contactless payment
acceptance to an existing solution.
From an issuer standpoint, whether in payment
or transportation or identity, or closed-loop systems, the Zenius
architecture can drop into the systems and allow issuers to add new
contactless NFC applications to the merchant acquisition side and
the consumer side.
Zenius is not alone in attempting to close the
NFC gap. A Dallas-based company, DeviceFidelity, is testing a
device called the In2Pay solution, which can function as an NFC
passive tag and as a reader.
A similar microSD NFC card, provided by
startup firm RFinity, is currently being pilot tested on the campus
of Brigham Young University in Utah by students using their
The In2Pay solution, however, takes the
technology to credit card companies and is compatible with existing
NFC-enabled POS terminals already in use around the United States,
using the encryption protocol accepted by major credit and debit
According to mobile technology vendor
DeviceFidelity, about 65 percent of phones deployed around the
world are already equipped to use In2Pay cards.
After receiving an In2Pay microSD card from a
credit card company or bank, a consumer can insert the card into
his or her phone, then follow a few prompts on the phone’s screen
to enable it to link to the user’s credit card or bank account, if
so desired, in order to set up a payment system.
Once that occurs, the user can then tap the
phone against an NFC reader at a retail location, rather than
having to take cash or a credit or debit card out of a wallet in
order to complete a purchase.
Though NFC-ready phones are rare now, Nokia
has said that it plans to make NFC technology a standard feature in
its phones by 2012, a move widely believed to unleash a wave of
innovation around NFC applications.
“We are nearing a time period in which NFC
will grow rapidly as the devices catch up,” Wiese said. “That’s why
we’re building this infrastructure now, and providing an easy way
for merchants and issuers to get involved with NFC.”