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Project Oscar files plan, US's ISIS bangs out a logo

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In the United States, the ISIS platform for NFC apps finally has a logo and is preparing itself for launch, while the UK equivalent – Project Oscar – is off to Europe for competition approval.

ISIS logo

Coming to a retailer near
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Both platforms hope to make the SIM the default storage for secure applications using the short-range radio standard NFC, and both are comprised of network operators who plan to charge rent of up to 50 euro cents a year for every NFC application deployed, something they can only do with huge market recognition.

Which is why there's also a video showing the simple, six-step process of paying for stuff using ISIS. But it's worth noting the emphasis, in both the video and the logo, on saving money using coupons and offers – which is where NFC thinks it can differentiate itself from cash.

ISIS isn't really a payment system: it's just a platform housed on the SIM allowing companies to develop one application and deploy it across network operators. So a bank, a railway or an airline can create an ISIS-compatible application to process payments – or ticketing or boarding passes – without having to create separate versions for each network operator.

ISIS is rolling out to a handful of US cities this year, but won't be drawn on a national launch date.

In the UK we have much the same thing in Project Oscar, which includes all the network operators except Three – which was frozen out at the launch. The Financial Times tells us that Project Oscar is currently being checked out by the EU to ensure it's not an anti-competitive cartel, which is (coincidentally) just what Three thinks it is.

A standard platform which works across all network operators isn't anti-competitive, but one which locks out the smallest player certainly puts itself at risk of being so, so it's quite possible the EU will kick Oscar back to the UK for a ruling.

The problem for NFC is, as ever, that it lacks a killer application. Everyone can come up with interesting things to do when every phone has NFC embedded, as our own Secretary of State for Transport Justine Greening has been doing lately (promising electronic ticketing for our railways), but none of those applications, including electronic payments, provide enough reason for anyone to pick up an NFC phone rather than one which lacks the short-range-radio standard.

If NFC is going to have any chance at all then it needs as much branding as possible, and that means standard platforms. National consortia are a good start, but they need to be inclusive if they're going to inspire developers to create applications to do the fun stuff NFC makes possible. ®

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