The feature, called Host Card Emulation (HCE) stores credit card information securely in the cloud. That way any app can turn into a mobile wallet app. This is huge for those who want to use their phones to make purchases using NFC, but who don’t have a device or carrier that supports Google Wallet or ISIS.
The current method for mobile payments via NFC involves storing card data in a “secure element” on the phone that only certain apps can access. The catch with this secure element is that it’s often controlled by carriers. That’s what Google Wallet only works on Sprint in the U.S., because Sprint lets the app access the secure element, while other carriers block it on their phones.
HCE lets Visa, MasterCard, Google, and anyone else who wants to get involved, bypass the carriers and enable NFC payments.
Visa seems ready to offer the new feature to developers today, though MasterCard only promises to have its tools ready by July. Hopefully that means we’ll see an update to Google Wallet that supports HCE soon. Banks could also get involved, offering their own mobile payment apps that take advantage of HCE and one-tap payments via NFC.
Like all mobile payment solutions, HCE sounds fantastic, and like it could finally lead to something big. But retailers and other businesses still have to get on board to support mobile payments. Who knows, maybe this time we’ll finally get somewhere. We’ve been down this road before, and let down before, but maybe this time is different.
It has to be different, right? Can this finally be the mobile payments solution that lets us leave our wallets at home when we go to the store without worrying about how we might pay for our groceries?