Commerce Weekly: Apple iWallet/NFC rumors reignite with newest patent application

iWallet may arrive yet, PayPal's new partnerships prepare for launch, and mobile payments hit fast food.

iPhone patent application focused on “a method for conducting a financial transaction”

Apple Patent ImageThe US Patent & Trademark Office published a new patent application from Apple this week that indicates potential advancement on the iWallet mobile payment front. Jack Purcher at Patently Apple dug in to find what set this patent application apart from other iWallet patent applications previously filed and found that this application “focused on ‘A method for conducting a financial transaction‘” (emphasis is Purcher’s).

Purcher pulled out 14 specific claims in the patent related to conducting a financial transaction. The first not only describes how the transaction will take place, but indicates near field communication (NFC) could be accommodated:

“1. A method for conducting a financial transaction comprising: taking a picture of a first code displayed on a transaction terminal using a camera of a portable electronic device; and sending data from the portable electronic device to the transaction terminal to conduct the financial transaction with the transaction terminal using a near field communication channel or another wireless communication channel, or both, wherein the data is derived from the first code to enable the transaction terminal to verify that the portable electronic device is physically located near the transaction terminal.”

A subsequent claim in the patent indicates that the “code” would be a QR code. The latest “iPhone 5S” rumors indicate Apple plans to launch a cheaper version of the iPhone to better compete with cheap Android models, in which case this technology isn’t likely to be included in that release. As for when we could expect to see such technology manifest in an iPhone, Purcher notes: “Considering that this is a patent application, the timing to market of such an Apple product is unknown.” You can read his full report at Patently Apple.

PayPal launches new payment partnerships

PayPal mobile payment efforts hit headlines a couple times this week. First, James Barrese, PayPal chief technology officer, announced on the PayPal blog that PayPal and Magento would be partnering to offer merchants two new products: In-Aisle Selling and Order Ahead. In-Aisle Selling, a PayPal Here integration, would enable store clerks to take payments for merchandise anywhere in the store; Order Ahead, which started a pilot test with Jamba Juice in January, enables customers to order ahead and pay with PayPal’s mobile app. Barrese noted that Order Ahead not only has proven successful in food take-out businesses, but in many other types, including cinemas. You can find more details in his blog post.

In related news, Reuters’ Alistair Barr took a look at the approaching launch of PayPal’s partnership with Discover — set for April 19 — that will bring PayPal payments to retail stores that accept Discover. Barr noted that the biggest obstacle for PayPal will be changing consumer paying habits:

“PayPal’s uphill battle becomes clear from interviews with employees at the Home Depot store in San Carlos, California, one of the first to test the new service. Cashiers there said very few customers chose to use PayPal — and some who did soon gave up because they found keying in a bunch of numbers was not as convenient as swiping a credit card.”

Barr also noted the fierce competition in the mobile payments space, which is forcing payments companies to attract consumers in other ways, such as through incentive programs or with effective solutions for consumer pain points. On this front, the Discover-PayPal testing ground in Home Depot has proven successful. Barr wrote:

“Home Depot and PayPal have run several promotions in recent months, offering $5, $10 or $25 rewards to users who spend a certain amount in-store with PayPal. One such promotion was expected to last two weeks but proved so popular that it lasted only 30 minutes before the budgeted reward money ran out, [Don Kingsborough, global VP/ GM of retail and prepaid at PayPal,] said.”

Home Depot treasurer Dwaine Kimmet told Barr that “[t]he real killer app comes when PayPal rolls all the incremental functionality around the transaction and the shopping experience.”

Faster payments for fast food

KFC-AppIn what is perhaps a sign that mainstream consumers are ready for mobile payments, two of the largest fast-food chains in the world have launched mobile payment experiments. McDonald’s has chosen one of its locations in Canada to test an NFC-based tap-and-pay payment model using Interac Flash, a contactless debit solution from Canadian payment network operator Interac Association. Chantal Tode reported at Mobile Commerce Daily that the “mobile tap-and-go transactions [are] funded from a debit card account to support real-time sales via a smartphone.”

The payment test, Tode noted, was conducted through a partnership between Interac Association, McDonald’s, the RBC Royal Bank, point-of-sale payment processing company Moneris, and BlackBerry. Interac Association Toronto’s head of external affairs Caroline Hubberstey told Tode that “[t]he successful transactions that have taken place bring us a step closer to rolling out Interac Flash from a mobile phone later this year,” and she pointed out that “McDonald’s accepts Interac Debit and is now actually fully enabled to accept Interac Flash at all of their stores across the country.”

KFC is jumping into the mobile payments arena as well. Rimma Kats reported at Mobile Commerce Daily that the fast-food chain has partnered with mobile shopping company AIRTAG to develop a new mobile and web app that allows customers to place and pay for their orders with a smartphone.

The app, which has been released in the UK and Ireland, “uses geotargeting technology that lets consumers locate the nearest KFC,” Kats reported. It also has mobile check-in capability so customers can let staff at the KFC location know they’ve arrived to pick up food; customers can also store order and payment history to enable one-click payments. According to Kats, KFC executives also plan to incorporate geofencing in the future so consumers can check in to a location before even coming in the door. “It’s early days, but it’s something we’re testing,” Paul Borrett, IT director of KFC UK and Ireland, told Kats. “We think mobile payments are the next big thing.”

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