ISIS – Not an Option for my Galaxy 3

Yesterday, I was at the AT&T Store to get an ISIS SIM card in order to use ISIS mobile payment. The rep was very excited since this was the first time she has activated an ISIS SIM card. The store manager Chris was next to us assisting her. He was very pleasant and introduced Digital Life products to me while we were waiting for ISIS to work.

After trying two ISIS SIM cards, three reboots of the phone,  four technical support calls and 1.5 hours waiting, my Samsung Galaxy 3 kept on returning with an error message that read “ISIS requires a new SIM card with a Secure Element”.  Tech support was transferred from AT&T to ISIS and the problem remained. So ISIS tech support suggested to transfer back to AT&T tech support. Finally, we decided that ISIS was not going to be an option for my phone.

I looked at the Google Play store and found similar dissatisfied comments made by other consumers. Carriers have some work to do to fix these problems.

ISIS Mobile payment started its trial last fall in Austin and Salt Lake City. It uses NFC technology for data exchange and secure element in the SIM card to save credit card information. Since a SIM card is hard to hack, a SIM based secure element is a more secure solution. Secure element will also be used for storing credentials for building access; for example hotel room locks or office building access.

The transportation market segment is also planning to store credentials to SIM based secure element so that mobile phones can be used to pay transit fare. Since the carriers’ infrastructures are not ready, the transportation market may get impatient and give up on secure element.

I hope the future secure element based NFC applications will work well so that consumers can really enjoy NFC technology and pick up the technology as Asia and Europe have. A good news is that ISIS has introduced ISIS Alliance Program to support the ecosystem. We shall keep an eye on its development.

NFC Mobile Payment and ISIS

Seattle Technical Forum held its monthly meeting on November 13th. I was invited to speak on NFC (Near Field Communication). Most of the audience was not familiar with the technology. As an introduction, I did a demonstration by tapping an NFC-enabled phone to a tag pasted on my business card. The audience was surprised to see my Amazon author page show up on the phone as a result. This demonstrated how NFC tags can be used to distribute information.

In my 15 minute presentation, I explained basic NFC technology, shared some current NFC applications, compared QR code with NFC tag usage and shared my vision of NFC’s potential. Karl J. Weaver, another NFC presenter, explained NFC secure mode in detail and focused on the mobile payment landscape. His speech was uploaded to YouTube. Drawing on his working experience in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong for Gemalto over the last five years, he offered a lot of insights on NFC mobile wallet.

In the Q/A session, the majority of the questions asked were on NFC security. People were curious about the adoption rate of the ISIS mobile wallet and the compatibility between chipset Secure Element used in Europe vs. SIM-based Secure Element used in ISIS.

ISIS, launched today, is a joint venture of T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon. It’s an NFC mobile wallet implementation that allows NFC-enabled mobile phones to serve as a wallet. This is a link to AT&T’s announcement, which includes steps that need to be taken in order to enable NFC mobile wallet. NFC World also shows video clips on how to use ISIS.

Currently, ISIS only works with Android devices and there are limited merchants. Since telecoms haven’t promoted NFC-enabled phones despite their rapid release last year,  it will be interesting to watch how consumers adopt ISIS.

It was a pleasure to present in the Seattle Technology Forum. Other speakers, Roy Leban (Why Mobile Doesn’t Matter), Arvind Krishnan (Negotiating the Mobile First Challenge) and Jeremy Foster (Mobile UX Paradigms) all had awesome presentations and invoked lively discussion with the audience.