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Visa muscles into Olympic pay-by-wave with microSD kit

Non-NFC gadgets to join Samsung's 2012 phone for on-site payments

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Samsung's Olympic Phone won't be the only gadget able to make payments within the London venue next year, with Visa planning an operator bypass with microSD.

Samsung's payment-enabled Olympic Phone will be sold around the world, according to Visa's latest presentation to European bankers that was attended by Pocket Lint, but more interesting is the suggestion that Visa will be adopting a microSD alternative for devices that don't have NFC built in, removing the need for an operator partnership.

The Olympic Phone is supposed to handle security and payments within the venue, though it won't host tickets as that couldn't be arranged in time. But for any secure application, including payments, an operator is needed as Visa has committed to putting the NFC secure element on the SIM card (which is controlled by the operator). But no UK operator is sponsoring the London Olympics, so finding one to work with is tough and has perhaps prompted Visa's talk of microSD-with-NFC alternatives.

Samsung (Olympic Worldwide Partner) will be providing the as-yet-unrevealed handsets free to athletes, and selling the "iconic" device around the world. Visa (also Worldwide Partner) is providing the payment terminals for the whole event, so the Olympics will be PayWave only – no MasterCards of any kind accepted here.

Lloyds (Official Partner to the London Olympics) will be underwriting the payment system pre-installed on the handsets, but to complete the set one needs a network operator and there aren't any on the sponsorship roles of the Olympics.

For the Olympic handset that remains unresolved, but for everyone else Visa is planning a microSD-card based alternative which could be retrofitted to handsets, providing both radio and secure element without needing any operator involvement.

Visa has mucked about with microSD-based NFC before, running trials using kit from Device Fidelity – which works on lots of handsets (anywhere the microSD card is near the casing, and the casing isn't metal). But in public Visa has always said it wanted to work with operators to get the technology into the SIM card.

That is happening, but apparently not fast enough for Visa and the immovable date of next year's Olympics. ®

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