AnywhereCommerce is introducing a card reader about the size of a Zippo lighter that plugs into the audio jacks of mobile devices to accept both magnetic-stripe and chip-and-signature EMV payment cards.

The company views the reader, which it calls Walker, as a step in the U.S. transition to the EMV, says CEO Mitchell Cobrin.

The first Americans to use Walker, which becomes available next week, may include businesses that cater to tourists from abroad who carry EMV cards, Cobrin says.

"That's a really ripe market where they want to be able to support chip-card holders," he says.

Other Americans who simply want to seem more "cutting edge" might use the reader, too, he suggests.

"There is also a consortium of the market that says, 'I want to future-proof my devices,' " Cobrin says. "I had that conversation with several of our larger customers down in New Orleans at the (Electronic Transactions Association) show."

The product could also find an audience in Latin American countries, which are generally closer to EMV readiness than the United States, he notes. Demand could also arise in the Asia-Pacific region, he says.

Walker, which will sell for about $40, is certified for EMV Level 1 and Level 2. EMVCo.'s Level 1 compliance pertains to physical, electrical and transport level interfaces, while Level 2 covers payment application selection and credit financial transaction processing.

Walker supports iOS, Android, Symbian, Windows Phone and Blackberry operating systems on smartphones and tablets. It complements another AnywhereCommerce product, a chip-and-PIN reader called Nomad.

Most users would prefer Nomad in Canada and the United Kingdom because of the prevalence of chip-and-PIN in those countries, Cobrin says.

In the United States, the card brands are granting liability shifts for both approaches to EMV. In effect, the brands are calling for EMV but aren't requiring a specific approach.

"At the company we don't make bets," Cobrin says of the duality in the U.S. "We're not going to shape the market. We provide options for our customers." 

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