As banks continue to study the use of host card emulation (HCE)  for Near Field Communication-based mobile payments, Ukraine's PrivatBank says it is one of the first to publicly launch an HCE service.

The Liqpay application works with NFC smartphones running on Android 4.4 KitKat, letting users register any MasterCard or Visa card in order to fund payments made with a tap of their phone at contactless terminals, the bank states in a Feb. 27 press release.

The cloud-based HCE hosts NFC applications outside of the secure element in a handset, which PrivatBank says frees up the bank to implement mobile payments without relying on a specific telecommunications company.

Through HCE, any NFC application on an Android device can emulate a smart card for consumer payments through smartphones, while PrivatBank hosts the payment accounts in a secure, virtual cloud, rather than renting space on the phone's SIM card.

Since Google announced it was adding HCE to its operating system late last year, the technology has begun to gain favor  in the payments industry.

Spain's Bankinter  revealed its HCE-based app last week in Barcelona, but says its commercial launch is scheduled for later this year.

Visa and MasterCard also announced support for HCE, viewing it as a technology that can spur widespread adoption of NFC-based mobile payments.

The cards brands have encouraged merchants in the U.S. to have point-of-sale terminals prepared for NFC payments at the same time they upgrade to EMV smartcard acceptance over the next year and a half as the country moves toward an October 2015 liability shift timeline for its EMV migration.

"Consumers will be able to download a beta-version of the Liqpay App starting tomorrow," says Alexander Vityaz, the bank's head of e-commerce business, in the press release. "We decided to use HCE because it is independent and a very easy solution."

In the meantime, technology providers are increasingly making HCE part of their payments platforms.

Global card manufacturer and NFC service provider ABnote says it will integrate tech provider SimplyTapp's HCE technology into its trusted service manager platform, and

NFC provider Proxama plans to leverage HCE into an EMV tokenization software with security provider Cryptomathic.

Austin, Texas-based SimplyTapp created the coding for HCE and shared it with Google through an open-source project.


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