In NFC payments the devices win

Written by on March 10, 2015 in BillingViews, Opinion with 0 Comments

Business people sleeping at the meetingIf have been reading DisruptiveViews (or BillingViews) for a while, it will come as no shock that Softcard (formerly known as ISIS) has ceased operations. From its launch we were less than enthusiastic. Some might say we were a little rude. We even wrote poetry about the underlying technology.

The problems were twofold.

The first was that carriers cannot control devices and could not therefore win the battle to control the ‘secure’ element in smartphones. ApplePay is as secure as it is because Apple controls the secure element. The same applies to Google. The difference with Google is that the company is willing to work with the carriers, specifically the carriers that were behind Softcard. Now customers are being encouraged to sign up to Google Wallet in order to ‘continue’ to use the service.

There was never any doubt that once Apple moved, the world would have to think again. Now that Apple has moved in NFC payments, and has already signed up 700,000 locations, Softcard had little chance.

The second problem is that, fundamentally, innovation by committee is a contradiction in terms. Innovation comes out of garages in a Los Angeles suburb, not an office in a vast industrial estate, which requires representatives of six huge companies to attend meetings. Innovation requires 24 hour devotion, not Minutes of meetings and lists of attendees.

While we mourn, for a second, the passing of Softcard, our thoughts must surely turn to other initiatives that are being designed by committee. And while we respect the GSMA and their work (once, they too were a start up) we have to wonder about Rich Communications Suite (RCS). It is clearly well engineered and it is obviously being promoted by the GSMA and its members, but, frankly, it has no point.

Certainly it enables certain customers to do certain things. Possibly it enables them to do them better. But in messaging, however rich, the ‘quality’ and ‘having the mobile number’ of the customer at the other end does not differentiate the service. This product, for instance, is excellent, without doubt, but does it do anything that a service provider cannot do by simply partnering with a specialist in home automation and protection? No.

We may be proved wrong, but RCS has been about to revolutionise the messaging world for so long, we have given up waiting and moved on with our lives. It was conceived when Digital Service Providers (DSPs) were seen as the greatest threat to mobile carriers. They are competitors no longer.

Expensive and sad as it may be, perhaps it is time to concede this one, too, and stop clinging to the wreckage.

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About the Author

About the Author: Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He is publisher of DisruptiveViews and previously BillingViews. .

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