Payments is one of those chicken and egg scenarios. Consumers want to see a use case (participating merchants) before they adopt, yet merchants want to know that customers are actually using this stuff before they invest. Apple Pay has, by all accounts, significantly broadened adoption of NFC payments, and now a solution opening it up to large numbers of merchants could be on the horizon.
Ingenico – a 35-year-old, France-headquartered RFID and payment tech firm — has introduced what it says is the first contactless payment receiver to plug into a headphones-jack. With support for NFC, the company said its point-of-sale (POS) product will allow nearly any merchant to take payment via Apple Pay, MasterCard’s contactless technology and Visa’s payWave system.
The product (which has the distinctly unsexy name of ‘RP170c’) will work whether a card has EMV or magstripe. It is expected to hit the market in the second quarter of this year — available both via Ingenico itself and third-parties which will white label it.
The technology will support “virtually any” Android and iOS device, the company explained. The aim is to make Apple Pay and other technologies available to the longer tail of the retail chain, including smaller shops and outlets.
Bringing Apple Pay To Smaller Retailers
“We already have [undisclosed partners] who have confirmed they will deploy it,” Thierry Denis, Ingenico’s North American President, told TechCrunch in an interview. “We’ve realized since the Apple Pay announcement there is an increased demand for NFC terminals — now 65 percent of what we are shipping, even for the low-end of the market, is for NFC.”
“We felt that the small business segment should have solution that should support Apple Pay,” he added.
Apple Pay may be the attention-grabbing part of the story, but Ingenico’s technology will also support Google and its new acquisition Softcard because — Denis explained — providing across the board support is hugely important in the payment space. In fact, he foresees that Softcard deal becoming hugely important, just as the launch of Apple Pay was.
“If you look at what Google has done… the solution has been certified, [so…] the strength of that deal is that they can have a guarantee from U.S. telecom operators that all the Android phones will have Softcard function and features enabled,” Denis said.
That’s one step to making demand, another is of course a high-profile consumer name… such as Apple.
“What we have seen in the past, is that people were not aware of whether they had the right phone [for NFC and contactless payments]. Now they know [if] they have an iPhone 6 or 6 plus… they can do Apple Pay — the effort is a lot easier and stronger to identify,” Denis added.
NFC and contactless payments have been around for years, and have been prominent in parts of Asia for nearing a decade, but only now that consumer names have jumped in has the concept begun to show potential in the U.S. While initial adoption has been impressive, the technology remains nascent on a nationwide scale, and it will take initiatives that broaden access for that to change.
Square — which Denis admitted is the number one player in the POS space in the U.S. — is believed to be working to include Apple Pay in its products this year, so Ingenico isn’t alone in trying to broaden adoption among merchants.