Industry standards are a good thing – there’s very little argument against their existence or their purpose. They help markets to coalesce around some best practices, and they can help deliver economies of scale as well as drive actual market scale. But if you sense a ‘but’ coming along in this train of thought, you would be at least partly right.
Industry standards often emerge from industry standards bodies – some of which are more commercial than others. There are some of these bodies where governments and regulators play a role; and others that emerge from within an industry in order to the serve the marketplace.
In the card and mobile payments and authentication space, EMVCo is a good example of the latter. It was originally formed by six giants of the industry – Amex, Visa, Mastercard, UnionPay, JCB and Discover – who got together to form the jointly owned company and then invited other players to be partners. EMVCo is owned, however, by that big six and, hardly surprisingly, there is an element of self-interest in the organisation. And that’s not to say that the self-interest is necessarily a bad thing.
What EMVCo has been good at doing is getting agreements and establishing ways of working where its major players are unified and are able to deliver ubiquity of market access. With the big transaction handlers on board from the outset, it becomes easier for other players in the vendor eco-system to follow suit and bring products and services to market with global capability.
Following suit has never been our modus operandi at Ensygnia though. We originally identified the opportunity to use smartphone technology to authorise payments and make transactions back in 2010 – we’ve been developing, refining and running our patented technology ever since then, across an increasing number of applications and customer types.
And, of course, we respect and conform with industry standards. It’s just that we tend to get there ahead of them. The latest standards coming out from EMVCo cover Secure Remote Commerce (SRC). It’s a good standard, a gold standard, but we have been meeting its requirements for at least the last three years.
Big companies working together can move mountains – but smaller, nimble companies can have already climbed them. Industry and commercial standards organisations can set benchmarks that are often based on a lowest common denominator to encourage widespread uptake – but smaller innovative developers can quickly be operating at a higher level.
When asked why we are not one of the partner companies within the EMVCo ecosystem my answer is simple. We don’t need to be to stay ahead of the latest developments. And if something unexpected emerges, we are nimble enough to assimilate and integrate it.
EMVCo’s work is good for the industry and will help certainly help the market to scale. It is to be applauded because we need the big players united and on board. And of course, we will continue to watch them closely to track developments and ensure we stay ahead of the direction of travel. Standards are great – staying ahead of them is even better.