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Discover Teaming With Motorola on NFC, Mobile-Banking Trial

Participants can use phones with Motorola's new M-Wallet platform to check Discover account balances, make RFID-based payments and more.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Sarab Sokhey, director of business development for network services at Motorola, says his company spent the past few years developing the M-Wallet platform and integrating an NFC module into a handset. Customers won't likely see the first NFC-enabled Motorola handset hit the market, however, until the first half of 2008. This, he says, is because demand has been soft among wireless carriers for phones able to support NFC transactions.

Sokhey says the M-Wallet platform will make it easier for wireless carriers to begin offering and supporting NFC-enabled phones. Rather than having to support the Visa, MasterCard, Discover or other contactless payment technology platforms separately, the carriers can just offer Motorola phones with M-Wallet, which can support all of the unique payment specifications (including data security protocols) under one umbrella.

"M-Wallet is credit-card-agnostic," Sokhey explains, "and can support up to 50 different [types of] cards." He says Motorola and Discover are working with Ztar, a Dallas-based mobile virtual network operator, to provide the cellular service for the phones used in the trial. To pull their Discover account information onto the NFC module inside the phone (where it is stored as encrypted data), trial participants employ an over-the-air NFC initialization function that is part of the M-Wallet platform.

The Discover-Motorola technology trial will last at least until March, though Discover indicates it may be extended. Orlowsky says it's too soon to predict what the credit-card organization's next step might be. "It's going to be based on the feedback we get from this trial," he maintains. "We're not in the position to say whether the next [contactless payment] test will be internal [involving just Discover employees], or if it will be extended [to other consumers]."

Discover also announced, this week, that it has certified the Inside Contactless MicroPass L4, a high-frequency ISO-14443-compliant RFID tag chip, as being compliant with Discover's air-interface and security specifications for RFID-enabled (contactless) payments. Thus, manufacturers of payment cards and fobs can begin embedding tags using the L4 chip into those devices once Discover starts issuing RFID-enabled cards and fobs to its cardholders.

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