Where In The World Is ISIS Wallet?

Written by Karen Webster
June 24th, 2013

Karen Webster is CEO of the Market Platform Dynamics consulting firm and serves as President of

My, how time flies when you are having fun in the digital wallet space! With all of the recent attention to Google Wallet, thought it might be interesting to do the same about some of the other digital wallets in the market – there are so many now! Since someone was asking me just the other day about ISIS, and its been a while since we’ve heard from them, I was inspired. So, just Where in the Wallet World is ISIS these days? Well, the short answer is: not in very many places.

It’s live in two cities, so they can officially use plural words when describing its deployment, but unless you live in Salt Lake City or Austin (and own particular handsets with NFC) you are SOL in being able to engage in the ISIS experience. According to Mike Abbott, ISIS CEO, at a presentation this past May, ISIS will expand past those cities when they are good and ready. And after all, what’s the rush, especially when you have Big Daddy Telebucks (AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon) bankrolling you?

Let’s take a trip down memory lane now and refresh our collective memories on the ISIS Wallet evolution.

It seems like only yesterday – but it was actually November 2010 – when the news first broke that AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless had formed a JV to build a “transformative” mobile commerce network called ISIS. The emphasis here is the word network. The original ISIS ambition was to create a mobile network to compete with V and MA and AXP, touting its ability to bring 200 million subscribers to the mobile commerce party, which the three founding telcos paid $100 Million to throw. The model was to have a single issuer, BarclayCard US, power the solution, which would run over Discover’s rails. This was all going to happen by way of NFC.

Fast forward to May 2011. After the initial heavily-funded-start-up-with-lofty-ambitions euphoria wore off, the reality began to set in. New network that competes with incumbents: hard. Mobile: hard. NFC-based: harder. No available NFC handsets: much harder. No merchants with NFC-enabled POS: much, much harder. Consumer adoption: yikes! They’d have to ditch their existing cards, which they could use everywhere, switch their accounts and get a Barclays Card, buy a new phone … only to not be able to use it many (any?) places. Not a very enticing value proposition – and many, many really hard platform business problems to solve all at once!

So, ISIS pivots, moving away from its network ambition to a mobile wallet ambition, now partnering with V and MA. What happens then?


Comments are closed.


StorefrontBacktalk delivers the latest retail technology news & analysis. Join more than 60,000 retail IT leaders who subscribe to our free weekly email. Sign up today!

Most Recent Comments

Why Did Gonzales Hackers Like European Cards So Much Better?

I am still unclear about the core point here-- why higher value of European cards. Supply and demand, yes, makes sense. But the fact that the cards were chip and pin (EMV) should make them less valuable because that demonstrably reduces the ability to use them fraudulently. Did the author mean that the chip and pin cards could be used in a country where EMV is not implemented--the US--and this mis-match make it easier to us them since the issuing banks may not have as robust anti-fraud controls as non-EMV banks because they assumed EMV would do the fraud prevention for them Read more...
Two possible reasons that I can think of and have seen in the past - 1) Cards issued by European banks when used online cross border don't usually support AVS checks. So, when a European card is used with a billing address that's in the US, an ecom merchant wouldn't necessarily know that the shipping zip code doesn't match the billing code. 2) Also, in offline chip countries the card determines whether or not a transaction is approved, not the issuer. In my experience, European issuers haven't developed the same checks on authorization requests as US issuers. So, these cards might be more valuable because they are more likely to get approved. Read more...
A smart card slot in terminals doesn't mean there is a reader or that the reader is activated. Then, activated reader or not, the U.S. processors don't have apps certified or ready to load into those terminals to accept and process smart card transactions just yet. Don't get your card(t) before the terminal (horse). Read more...
The marketplace does speak. More fraud capacity translates to higher value for the stolen data. Because nearly 100% of all US transactions are authorized online in real time, we have less fraud regardless of whether the card is Magstripe only or chip and PIn. Hence, $10 prices for US cards vs $25 for the European counterparts. Read more...
@David True. The European cards have both an EMV chip AND a mag stripe. Europeans may generally use the chip for their transactions, but the insecure stripe remains vulnerable to skimming, whether it be from a false front on an ATM or a dishonest waiter with a handheld skimmer. If their stripe is skimmed, the track data can still be cloned and used fraudulently in the United States. If European banks only detect fraud from 9-5 GMT, that might explain why American criminals prefer them over American bank issued cards, who have fraud detection in place 24x7. Read more...

Our apologies. Due to legal and security copyright issues, we can't facilitate the printing of Premium Content. If you absolutely need a hard copy, please contact customer service.