Credit card issuers, payment platforms and technology vendors are racing to ensure the London Olympics become the launchpad for next-generation, contactless payment technology. According to a Deutsche Welle report, Visa's sponsorship of the 2012 summer games will help drive faster adoption of near field communication technology that most analysts predict wouldn't become widespread until 2014.
Visa officials don't intend to wait for handset manufacturers to supply NFC solutions, either. Visa spokeswoman Sandra Alzetta showed off a new accessory that adds an NFC solution to consumers' existing iPhones. Alzetta told Deutsche Welle that her company intends to offer the "iCart" solution directly to end users in time for the games.
Retail infrastructure driving NFC adoption
Techworld's Sophie Curtis reports that Google Wallet hopes to beat Visa's solution to market, building on the success of its trial rollouts in San Francisco and New York. Google partnered with MasterCard to make its solution compatible with thousands of retail point-of-sale terminals already equipped to process PayPass.
Representatives of T-Mobile pulled out of a Dutch NFC payments consortium, citing the lack of an existing retail footprint as a major hurdle for any potential credit card replacement. Visa officials have told reporters that requiring NFC technology for access to Olympic venues will drive adoption of the technology by both consumers and vendors.
"Contactless games" arrive on the heels of contactless credit card experiments
Though the 2012 Summer Olympics represent the highest-profile roll-out of contactless credit card technology, European music fans and public transit users have already become familiar with NFC's alternative uses. For instance, the London Underground uses Oyster, an NFC fare card that has already become popular among both locals and tourists.
Previous tests of the technology have included live music festivals, where NFC wristbands replaced both credit cards and tickets for weekend-long events. Concert promoters think the technology could help reduce ticketing fraud and unauthorized resale of event tickets.