Mobile payments step closer to broad availability

Mobile commerce company Isis signs deals with Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express. Will it speed up adoption of near-field communications technology?
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

The ability to pay for goods in a store without breaking open your wallet just took a giant leap forward.

Mobile commerce company Isis announced on Tuesday that it had signed deals with the parent companies of all four major payment networks -- VisaMasterCardDiscover and American Express -- paving the way for broad availability of an ecosystem that will let American consumers use their smartphones at the cash register.

Isis, a joint venture between U.S. wireless carriers VerizonAT&T and T-Mobile, is the first company to sign deals with all four major financial platforms.

Its mission: accelerate mobile payments adoption.

The levers are in place to do just that. The company now has availability across all the major payment platforms, and three of the four largest companies that sell smartphones in the U.S. will offer Isis-ready phones with support for near-field communication, or NFC, technology.

The general concept is to consolidate payments for goods, coupon redemption and loyalty point accumulation in one place: your phone. A lot of puzzle pieces must be assembled to make that happen, but from the looks of things, Isis is doing the difficult partner work now so that the process is a bit more seamless for consumers when it rolls out.

Speaking of which: Isis announced earlier this year that it will launch in "the first half of 2012" in a limited fashion -- only initially in Salt Lake City and Austin, Texas.

We'll see what happens in those markets, of course, but if I can find a way to get all those thumb-sized loyalty cards off my keyring, I'll be one step closer to nirvana.

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