PARIS—A United States-based company has introduced software and a device designed to enable consumers to conduct Near Field Communication payments and downloads without the need to buy NFC-enabled handsets. Zenius Solutions demonstrated the product this week here at the Cartes & Identification trade show. The product, which Zenius Chief Technology Officer Ming-Li Liu calls an "NFC add-on" and an "NFC enabler," consists of Zenius software on chips located within a small device called a "Waver" from Czech Republic-based Bladox SRO, a mobile-phone technology vendor. The device includes a chip for NFC, a short-range wireless technology designed for contactless payments and downloads, and a virtual SIM card. One end of the mostly black device goes inside the handset, below the phone's regular SIM card. The rest of the device attaches to the outside of the phone, roughly resembling contactless stickers that various vendors have released over the past year or so to meet growing demand for tap-and-go payments. The Zenius software would enable consumers with such handsets as Apple Inc.'s iPhone and Research in Motion Ltd.'s BlackBerry to perform NFC applications such as contactless retail and transit fare payments. "If you have a BlackBerry or iPhone, you are not going to switch to another phone" that has NFC built in, Liu tells CardLine Global. In fact, only a few handsets on the market, such as the Nokia 6131, support NFC. Some observers at Cartes, however, predict that Finland-based Nokia Corp. and competing vendors in 2010 will move to offer enough NFC handsets to support at least limited rollouts of the technology as backers try to push NFC from trials to commercial use. The Zenius technology will undergo pilots next year, Liu says, noting the company hopes to secure interest from issuers and merchants in the technology. The technology still needs certification from card networks, Liu adds. Zenius is not the only company to offer technology designed to enable consumers to use NFC regardless of the handset, says James Davlouros, vice president and business leader at MasterCard Worldwide. However, MasterCard has yet to certify any such technology, says Davlouros, who oversees the card brand's mobile-payment efforts in Europe. "In some cases, [these products] behave in a slow fashion," he says, referring only generally to the products, not to any specifically. "They do need some work."

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