Gold, silver or bronze for Salt Lake City ISIS trial?

Markiyan Malko |

April 14, 2011

“And the ISIS trial city for mobile payments is awarded to (drum roll, please)….Salt Lake City.”

This isn’t the first time Salt Lake City has been the centerpiece of extravagant proportions. The 2002 Winter Olympics were held there nine years ago (that was a Yogi Berra-ism, for anyone playing along).

This time around, however, the city will be more heavily scrutinized, as ISIS, a joint venture of three U.S. wireless carriers, has chosen it to test mobile wallet technology. This technology, if successful, could become the de facto way consumers pay for everything from their morning joe to their high-def television.

Simply put, in the future you will have a chip in your smartphone that when waved in front of a reader will allow you to pay for merchandise.

How simple is that? The answer, not so simple.

There are a lot of concerns that need to be addressed before that day comes, like the technology itself and how a person will get their money from their account into the merchants account. Will the card networks all need their own chip, or will they get together to invent one chip? How will payment processors fit into the equation and how will wireless carriers work together?

Ask 100 people, get 100 different answers.

In a conversation this week with Olga Kharif of Bloomberg/BusinessWeek, our co-CEO Henry Helgeson was asked if he sees one geographic location or particular retail section adopting this technology more so than others.

Surprisingly, according to Henry, adoption will depend on the consumer.

“One of the point men on our (NFC) project just returned from a conference and the story there was a lack of interest from the Big Box Retailers saying, ‘this doesn’t help us in any way until it’s coupled with something else that will drive customers to the store,’” explained Henry. “Usually it’s the payment networks and the Big Box Retailers that drive this innovation and I think this time around it is going to be consumer driven, where consumers want the cool factor of being able to pay with their phones. The merchants that cater to that will find themselves with a little uptick in business from it.”

Henry went on to explain that developing this technology will take time and patience, just due to the fact that most of the players involved are keeping their trade secrets close to the vest and aren’t willing to bring in the merchant-side of the equation just yet.

Salt Lake City is scheduled to trial this technology in the summer of 2012, at the same time London is hosting the Summer Olympics. You can leanr more about mobile payments and processing on the Merchant Warehouse mobile credit card processing page.