For merchants that use mobile point of sale technology, the U.S. migration to EMV-chip cards may still be a couple of years away. Roam aims to make it possible to accept EMV cards ahead of schedule.
"The [card network liability shift] mandates in the U.S. don't go into effect until 2015, but we are fully prepared for it and are offering a range of products so merchants can be ready when the migration does happen," says Scott Holt, a vice president at Roam, an Ingenico unit that sells mobile point of sale technology and other merchant services through third parties.
Most of the options for accepting EMV cards on a mobile device are offered in Europe, where EMV is more firmly entrenched, but Roam is also pursuing the U.S. market, where Roam has obtained Visa Ready certification for its EMV mobile card readers.
Roam has a handful of U.S. clients testing EMV payments, and "some are planning to use chip-and-signature as a product differentiator for mobile acceptance," Holt says. PIN use is generally considered more secure, but signature-only EMV acceptance is typically faster to deploy and requires fewer steps for the consumer.
Roam is offering both chip-and-PIN and chip-and-signature readers, with chip-and-signature generally priced lower.
Many mobile chip and-PIN devices, including Roam's hardware, are standalone units that communicate with the user's smartphone over a Bluetooth connection. This model makes the deployment and execution more difficult than chip-and-signature because the process is less straightforward.
"There's a whole other layer of complexity with chip and PIN," Holt says. "With chip-and-signature you can get the dongle-based solution so it mirrors the same form factor of the swipe devices."
Chip-and-PIN mobile point of sale technology can also be expensive for micro-merchants, says Rick Oglesby, a senior analyst at Aite Group.
"Chip-and-signature dongles are common [for EMV acceptance] and separate chip-and-PIN readers are available," Oglesby says. "Chip-and-PIN dongles are coming, but are not really on the market yet."
Many Roam clients opt for the chip-and-signature devices as a starting point as they learn more about EMV technology, Holt says.
"At the major retail level, they are aware of what's coming" with EMV adoption, Holt says, but "for smaller merchants, there's an increasing awareness, but they often rely more on their distribution partners and other people that they work with to gain their knowledge."
While a handful of other mobile point of sale companies, such as iZettle, SumUp and Swiff are also Visa Ready certified, adoption of EMV for mobile point of sale payments is still sluggish.
"EMV is not yet commonplace for mobile point of sale, particularly not in the U.S.," says Oglesby.
Square has expanded to EMV-friendly Canada, though it has not revealed its plans for EMV cards. Square would not comment on its U.S. EMV plans for this article.