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French NFC Payment Trial Kicks Off

In the city of Caen, retailers are testing a payments system using mobile phones equipped with near field communication RFID tags.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
A number of technology providers, including Samsung, LG, Microsoft, Motorola, NEC, Panasonic, Siemens and Texas Instruments (TI), have joined Nokia, Philips and Sony to form the NFC Forum. The forum provides a platform for its members to develop and maintain specifications for interoperable data exchange and protocols for NFC devices.

NFC devices can transmit encrypted payment information to payment terminals, in a manner similar to that used with RFID-enabled credit cards. In addition to having an NFC-compliant tag—which stores a unique ID and transmits encrypted data at 13.56 MHz—NFC devices include a smart card microcontroller that can be used to store security applications, such as keys and security codes, to protect payment information. This allows NFC devices to store data on multiple payment options. NFC supports the ISO 18092 standard, as well as ISO 14443A , the same standard used by RFID-enabled payment terminals being installed by a number of U.S. merchants. These include CVS pharmacies, Regal Cinemas and 7-Eleven and Sheetz convenience stores (see The Cashless Reality and All CVS Stores to Offer ExpressPay).

An NFC device can function not only as an RFID tag but also a reader, enabling it to pull data from tags embedded in objects. For example, testers in Caen can also use their NFC phones to read IDs from tags embedded in select movie advertisement posters, then use their phones to connect to the Internet and download a trailer for a movie.

Following the six-month trial, Groupe Galeries Lafayette, along with the technology partners involved in the project, will review the results and feedback from testers to decide whether to roll out the payments system on a permanent basis and extend it to other stores. The company’s Galeries Lafayette division operates 58 stores, while the Monoprix arm runs 231 locations.

According to Duverne, Philips is also working with a cell phone manufacturer and mobile service provider and retailer in the United States on a similar field trial. This project will reportedly be rolled out in the coming weeks.

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