If you're gonna pay in Texas, you can do it with the cellphone in your hand.
At least that's the hope of ISIS, a joint venture for wireless credit-card payments made up of AT&T, T-Mobile USA, and Verizon, which announced that Austin will be among the initial launch markets for its "wave and pay" NFC-driven mobile-commerce program that lets consumers pay for goods and services with nothing but a phone.
The early 2012 launch will enable a "comprehensive mobile commerce experience" for Austin consumers, according to the company's press release. CEO Michael Abbott says ISIS chose Austin because it's "home to progressive and tech savvy consumers and merchants" who are more likely to latch on to the much-hyped new tech than Luddites somewhere else.
Merchants across the city will get the new processing machines, and clients with the right kind of "ISIS-enabled mobile phones" will be able to make simple wave-and-pay-style payments, as well as redeem offers and coupons. The merchant hardware is coming from Verifone, which has incorporated NFC tech into all its new merchant card-processing systems. ISIS's platform brings together device manufacturers, carriers, payment networks, issuers, and merchants, and will support multiple banks as well as different phones on different networks.
The ISIS system is adding "incremental functionality, on top of the merchant’s existing loyalty programs," Verifone's Paul Rasori, SVP of Marketing, told Fast Company. And though the ease of updating merchant tech depends on the merchant, it shouldn't require more than a simple upgrade or replacement of existing systems. "From the merchant perspective, rolling out NFC technology is easy," thanks to a "tremendous amount of effort" put into the technology, Rasori said.
Nokia's brand-new (if slightly doomed) N9 smartphone has NFC built in, and Sony Ericsson just signed up with a chip supplier to put NFC tech in its future Android smartphones. And there are persistent rumors that Apple has big NFC plans. If all this comes to fruition, then 2012 is shaping up to be a battle royale over who gets control over this market: The phone networks, phone-tech firms like Google and its "Wallet" system, or credit card companies.
[Image: Flickr user Lance and Erin]