Backers of near-field communication technology for mobile payments made it plain on Tuesday they’re ready to fight back against quick-response codes, a rival technology that has won support not only from giant systems like China’s Alipay and WeChat Pay but also domestically from merchant apps from big chains like Walmart Inc. and Kohls Corp.
The NFC Forum, a Wakefield, Mass.-based standards body, released what it calls a “candidate” spec aimed at making mobile transactions even easier than with QR codes. The Money Transfer Candidate specification’s method would apply to both person-to-person and consumer-to-merchant transactions, and now awaits industry review and comment.
“QR codes aren’t dead but they are about to take a punch to the gut,” notes a spokesman for the NFC Forum in an email message announcing the new spec.
QR codes have won adherents in part because they require little in the way of point-of-sale technology and are relatively simple for mobile users. Some U.S, merchants have adopted them because the retailers are wary of transaction-routing issues they say are posed by NFC. But QR codes require users to open an app and position their phones to zero in on and scan a displayed code, steps the NFC Forum says its new spec will replace with a single tap. The group also says the new spec will offer more secure transactions than QR codes.
“The starting point was to define an NFC solution able to replace existing QR code solutions in Asia which require additional actions from the user to pre-select the right payment app and then to activate and place the camera in the correct position,” says Daniel Orsatti, an executive at STMicroelectronics and group chair for the NFC Forum’s reference applications framework working group. “Once the development process was started, it quickly became apparent that there was an even greater need for an NFC solution. We have enlarged the specification’s scope to not only cover Asia use cases but to offer a generic framework covering payment systems.”
Orsatti’s remarks were posted by the NFC Forum as part of an interview regarding the new NFC spec.
“This spec was developed based on input from member companies primarily in China. Because this is a candidate spec, we are offering member companies and the industry to provide input and feedback before the spec is adopted. It is too early to project where it may be deployed,” says Paula Hunter, the forum’s executive director, in an email reply to queries from Digital Transactions News.
The spec works by proposing an open framework allowing payment-service providers to “map” the payment-data exchange they’ve already defined for QR-code transactions, the NFC Forum’s post says. The process will take place between all NFC-enabled devices, including phones, readers, and tags, and “gives payment service providers and consumers the opportunity to take advantage of the simple and secure NFC-based payment solutions already in use worldwide as an alternative to QR code solutions,” the Forum’s post says.