Simpler NFC payments with a wide variety of apps could be coming in the near future
The potential for NFC payments to grow has been increased with the move to Android 4.4 KitKat, and now both Visa and MasterCard are showing support. Using a new feauture of KitKat called "Host Card Emulation" (HCE), both Visa and MasterCard have announced they will be supporting various NFC payment apps with cloud-backed payment infrastructures. Rather than relying on a phone's "secure element" for storing card data, HCE now allows the payment information to be validated and stored off-site, enabling for more NFC payment options.
Visa plans to quickly expand its "Visa Ready Program" to include any app that wants to interact with its payment network using HCE on a KitKat device. Visa Ready provides tools, standards and services to ensure apps work seamlessly with the Visa payment network. MasterCard will also provide secure cloud-based processing of payments to be paired with custom phone-side software to interact with its network. Details on MasterCard's implementation are expected at some point in the first half of 2014.
While HCE has the initial benefit of opening up Google Wallet to more devices without bothering with a secure element, the interest expressed by Visa and MasterCard show we could be in store for many more NFC payment apps on Android in the near future. Considering KitKat still has relatively low adoption there really isn't any rush, but once more devices push up to Android 4.4 this could turn into an interesting space.