Host Card Emulation: NFC's Tale of Redemption

When I wrote about Host Card Emulation back in March, it provoked much debate around whether this capability will die on the cutting floor or be meaningfully integrated in to a future Android iteration. And now that it has, this post is an attempt to look forward, even though much of it is speculative. But I will provide some perspective from a number of conversations I had in the last week with Networks, Issuers, TSMs, Merchants, Platform Owners and EMV practitioners and provide some insight in to perceptions, impacts and the road ahead for NFC. And I will provide some context to why HCE matters to each of these players.

First – if you haven’t read my previous post on HCE – this would be a good time to do so. Media has unfortunately focused yet again on the controversy in light of the KitKat HCE announcement – focusing on the end-run around Carriers rather than the upside this brings to those who have been disincentivized previously to consider NFC. What they all seem to have missed is that HCE allows for the following: it reduces the gap between merchants and card issuance, brings the topic of closed-loop and contactless in focus, and more tactically – allows for an easy deployment scenario that does not require them to change the software inside the terminal. I hope those three things do not get lost in translation.

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