Blaze Mobile is developing a new Near Field Communication mobile phone attachment that attempts to build a more open mobile wallet by allowing consumers to choose from a series of payment accounts.
"Consumers want to use multiple accounts and be able to use those accounts at the point of sale," says Michelle Fisher, CEO and founder of Blaze Mobile.
Blaze is calling the product Blaze Mobile Wallet 3.0 with NFC Smart Sticker. Blaze originally enabled mobile payments via a single MasterCard account. Version 3.0 adds more account choices at a reduced price, Fisher says.
"The customer simply opens our new [wallet] and selects which payment method they want to use," Fisher says.
To access the new version, consumers will have to order Blaze's new Smart Sticker and download Blaze Wallet 3.0. Blaze has partnered with card networks, issuer and merchants—and will name those companies in the near future, Fisher says.
The new stickers will be available this year, and are being developed off of Blaze's existing mobile payments technology, which recently received a trio of new patents. The patents cover the NFC sticker, the payment method and NFC-enabled coupon redemption at the point of sale.
"The tech allows for direct communication with the mobile device, so consumers can enable multiple payments options," Fisher says.
Blaze Mobile's sticker allows payments information to be transmitted to and from the phone without the need for a carrier network or Wi-Fi connection. Fisher did not provide details on how the technology accomplishes this. "It uses some our patented technology and trade secrets, but we are not providing any more details," she says.
"[Blaze's model] is an interesting idea. There have been restrictions on the way that NFC tech for mobile payment and mobile wallets have been structured," says Arkady Fridman, a senior analyst at Aite Group. "Consumers will have multiple [mobile payments relationships] so tech that allows interoperability is interesting."
Other companies with similar products include Sequent, which provides software and services for NFC phones. Sequent recently released the Sequent Wallet Management platform for Android phones that support the secure element used to store payments credentials. Sequent's platform enables any authorized mobile app to use any card stored in the phone's secure element and allows these cards to be used in authorized mobile wallets.
Sequent tracks which wallets are authorized to use each credential in the secure element, while protecting the secure element from unauthorized access. Sequent did not return requests for comment by deadline.
The companies are targeting the perceived limitations of early mobile wallets, such as relatively closed networks and technology restrictions that make products such as Google and Isis difficult to scale quickly, says Jordan McKee, an analyst at Yankee Group.
"Google Wallet can only be used on a handful of Sprint devices, for example," says McKee.
But using NFC as a lead technology may be a challenge, says McKee. "NFC transactions just aren't that popular on the merchant side," says McKee. "Also, it will be quite some time before merchants are willing to update their point of sale terminals."
Blaze also supports bar codes and may support QR codes in the future, Fisher says, adding some of Blaze's early mobile payment pilots included a hybrid of NFC and bar code payments.