Bank of America has started working with Visa to begin testing the use of smartphones to make in-store payments without the need for cash or credit cards. The system will make use of Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, which is a short-range communication technology for mobile phones, to make payments as simple as waving your phone at another NFC-enabled device.
According to Reuters, the two companies will begin testing next month the system of paying that "some say could become a primary means of everyday purchases."
Near Field Communication is a new standard based on RFID that we've been paying close attention to and earlier this year ReadWriteWeb founder Richard MacManus took an in-depth look at using mobile phones as a payment device.
With the technology now entering testing by the largest U.S. consumer bank and the world's largest payment processor, it seems that the idea of using mobile phones for making payments is gaining some serious traction, at least in the U.S. According to Reuters, the U.S. has been slower to adopt NFC payments as compared to countries like Japan, where mobile payment systems have been in place for years now. Just this week, PayPal indicated that mobile payment systems are a "top priority" after launching its own trial of NFC payments last month.
One big detractor to the use of NFC technology in turning smartphones into virtual wallets is that most popular smartphones do not come with the required NFC chip installed. For their test, the two companies "will allow select New York-area employees and customers to install small chips, supplied by Visa and its technology vendors", although neither company would say how many people will be involved in the pilot program.
The lack of NFC-enabled devices is, however, likely coming to an end in the near future. Apple just hired its own NFC expert earlier this week. NFC-enabled Android phones are said to be on the way by the year's end.