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A three-year contactless technology deal formally announced this week could represent another step toward wider consumer acceptance of Near Field Communication technology. The deal calls for First Data Corp. to use chips and related materials from France-based Inside Contactless for Go-Tag devices that consumers can affix to their mobile handsets. The stickers, about 2 inches long and 1 inch wide, support Visa's payWave platform to access a prepaid account. The technology is similar to contactless stickers that MasterCard Worldwide and U.S.-based Blaze Mobile Inc. will offer (CardLine Global, 31 March). The deal with First Data, Inside's first major contract with the United States-based processor, will result in global distribution of the stickers, Charlie Walton, Inside's executive vice president for payments, tells CardLine sister publication CardLine Global. He describes the stickers as a "bridge" to NFC, a short-range wireless technology that enables consumers to use mobile phones for contactless payments, couponing, ticketing and similar tasks. Full NFC, though, relies on chips inside handsets, not stickers that consumers detach from a card-size piece of plastic and then affix to their phones. Banks, transit agencies, mobile operators and retailers have conducted dozens of NFC tests around the world but rollouts await the availability of more NFC-enabled handsets and firm decisions among NFC participants about how to divide revenues and responsibilities. Like contactless debit and credit cards, consumers can use the stickers at any contactless-enabled payment terminal, most of which are in the U.S. The stickers, which include metallic shielding that enables the device to communicate with payment terminals without interference from the mobile handset, likely will cost more than standard contactless cards. Contactless chips can add a dollar or so in cost to cards, though Walton would not detail the potential price of the stickers except to say "it is no where near double the cost of contactless cards."

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