Absa expands mobile NFC trial

Banking group Absa has expanded its trial using Near Field Communication (NFC) enabled technology, which would enable the use of mobile phones as a payment device.

The trial kicked off in December 2011 and involved 500 of its own staff members operating in a live commercial environment.

The trial would enable trial participants to load funds into a prepaid store of value on a secure element on the phone, at point of sale, through Absa Online or at Absa ATMs.

BlackBerry handsets were initially used in the trials, while Absa also committed to deploying 4,000 NFC-enabled point of sale terminals in retail stores across South Africa by Q3 2012.

Arrie Rautenbach, Absa Head of Retail Banking noted that the bank has already introduced commercially available payment cards in the form of Absa OneTouch and Potentiate cards.

Rautenbach added that there are various transport cards also powered by Absa, which include: myconnect cards for the MyCiTi bus system in Cape Town; Tap-I-Fare cards in the taxi industry; and recently Rea Vaya cards for the Johannesburg BRT system.

“These smart cards eliminate the need to carry cash while commuting, making it a safer experience,” the retail banking lead said.

“The next step with NFC is to emulate these cards on a phone to a low payment by tapping your phone. For the initial staff pilot, this is done with the Absa OneTouch card, which means phones can be used to make payments anywhere the OneTouch cards are currently used,” Rautenbach said.

Absa has also recently expanded its NFC trials to include additional handsets, one of which is the Samsung S4.

“The pilot has shown meaningful improvements since launch – these improvements are mostly aimed to make the lives of our customers easier through technology improvements of the wallet application and the availability of security technology on the phones,” Rautenbach said.

“Absa continues to develop this new form of payment and will launch commercially when acceptance is at sufficient scale,” the retail chief stressed.

“As we learn from the practical, hands-on experiences of the trial, we will continue our discussions and deepen our relationships with the major players in the ‘NFC ecosystem’ to develop the commercial models, and extend the variety of payments instruments made available by the wallet,” Rautenbach said.

First National Bank (FNB) CEO Michael Jordaan said at the back-end of last year that the bank is “dabbling” in near field communication (NFC) technology.

“We are dabbling in it (NFC),” he told Businesstech at a function in Sandton, however he stressed that much of the change in the banks technology ecosystem would continue to centre on banking cards.

More on Absa

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Is South Africa ready for cashless?

FNB “dabbling” in NFC: CEO

Absa trials NFC payments for mobile devices

Absa commits to 4,000 NFC-enabled terminals by Q3

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Absa expands mobile NFC trial