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Olympic Phone touch-payment details revealed

Games to be a hotbed of bonking for money

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Updated Samsung's "Olympic" Galaxy S3 is being posted out to athletes and game officials next week, complete with pay-by-bonk functionality and a customised interface for those who need to know how great Samsung is.

The details came out at NFC Payments Europe, attended and reported by the chaps at NFC Times who got Visa to talk about the operator and banking partners as well as plans to permit transactions beyond the £20 cap imposed on unauthenticated bonking by the EU by introducing a four-digit passcode – just like a PIN only not a PIN ... and not to be confused with a PIN.

The banking app will come from Lloyds, but like the operator partner O2, Lloyds isn't an Olympic sponsor, so don't say it too loudly. None of the UK's banks or network operators are filling LOCOG pockets, but pay-by-bonk requires at least four players so Visa and Samsung (both proudly emblazoned with the five rings) have had to recruit O2 and Lloyds to provide the SIMs upon which Visa's PayWave application will be hosted.

We were expecting that SIM to come from Vodafone, given Telefonica's own O2 Money project. O2 Money was hoping to have a "Authorised Electronic Money Institution" (bank-lite) certification by now, which could have negated the need for a banking partner, though the other partners would probably have liked to have a proper bank involved anyway.

Other than that, the most interesting aspect is the mechanism designed to allow pay-by-bonk to be used when spending more than £20, which is going to be essential if one's buying a decent round of drinks (lager stubbies will apparently cost £4.20 a pop).

That cap rose last month, from £15, but those wishing to spend more on their Olympic phones will be able to enter the aforesaid four-digit passcode (and not PIN) on their phone to permit the next tap to exceed the £20 limit. That will also make PayWave phones superior to PayWave cards, which remain capped at £20.

Visa recognises that the passcode could (potentially) be vulnerable to key-listener malware on the Android handset, which is why it is differentiating it from the PIN code used for chip-and-PIN and cash withdrawals. A hacker who learns the passcode will need the physical SIM too – as long as users don’t change their two codes to be the same thing.

For Visa and Samsung this is really about selling the service to foreign delegates and officials; they're using the Games to showcase the technology even if it means giving a few handsets to athletes too. ®

Sponsor's note

Lloyds has been in touch to point out they are handing money over to LOCOG, so it's only O2 who's getting a free ride here.

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