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EMVCo announces the development of EMV Contactless Kernel Specification

By Joy Dumasia

May 09, 2022

  • Americas
  • ATMs
  • California
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Global technical body EMVCo has announced that it is developing an EMV Contactless Kernel Specification to simplify and advance global contactless payment acceptance. Following a detailed review with EMVCo Associates in February and March, a draft specification is now available on the EMVCo website for public review. EMVCo aims to release the final specification later in 2022 once its publication is approved by the EMVCo Board of Advisors.

A contactless kernel provides functions for payment acceptance devices (such as point-of-sale terminals and ATMs) to process contactless transactions. Currently, there are more than 20 different payment system contactless kernels in use worldwide, which technology vendors use to provide products that enable merchants to accept contactless payments. The complexity and cost of maintaining this multi-kernel environment are a growing challenge for the payments community. The EMV Contactless Kernel Specification aims to address this challenge by delivering an EMV kernel specification that all stakeholders over time can use for global contactless payment acceptance under the same royalty-free conditions as the EMV Contact Chip Specification.

Robin Trickel, EMVCo Executive Committee Chair, said: “EMVCo is developing the EMV Contactless Kernel Specification to address industry demand for an EMV contactless kernel that is made available in the same way as EMV Contact Chip to streamline global payment acceptance. Ultimately, this can, over time, help reduce the number of contactless kernels that stakeholders need to support and maintain, creating opportunities for merchants, hardware providers and payment systems to reduce costs and improve roll-out speed and time to market.”

EMVCo has engaged extensively with EMVCo stakeholders and the wider payments industry to understand marketplace needs and determine the best approach for an EMV contactless kernel specification. This included a feasibility study conducted by two independent consulting research firms.

The draft specification reflects this input with requirements and features designed to support contactless and mobile payments evolution, including advanced security technologies to protect against future threats. Key features include Secure Channel for privacy protection of sensitive data, Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC) for card authentication, biometric and mobile card verification methods, an architecture that supports physical or cloud implementations, and on-card data storage.

EMVCo will also provide approval testing for the EMV Contactless Kernel Specification through EMVCo accredited and audited laboratories and publish a list of all approved EMV contactless kernels on the EMVCo website.

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