What’s In A Name: Isis Now Softcard

Isis is now Softcard after a name change to avoid association with a now-infamous militant group. But the digital wallet's challenges don't end there.

After taking the name of an early Egyptian goddess, the telcom-backed digital wallet company Isis has changed its name to Softcard.

The reason for the moniker move is fairly obvious. In July, we announced that we would rebrand the Isis Wallet to avoid confusion and association with a violent Islamic militant group in the Middle East whose name, when translated into English, is known by the acronym, ISIS, Softcard CEO Michael Abbott said in his Sept. 3 announcement.

U.S. adoption of NFC-powered apps has been anemic. According to the mobile research firm Yankee Group, only 16% of mobile device owners used their phones to make an in-store purchase between December 2013 and February 2014, and three-fourths of that pool was using it less than five times a month.

But Isis has had problems above and beyond market interest, says Paul Fiore, founder of the industry-backed mobile wallet CUSO CU Wallet.

The new name is better than Isis, but I doubt it was their biggest obstacle to consumer adoption, says Fiore, who is also a co-founder of online banking pioneer Digital Insight. They started deploying hardware-based NFC systems prior to the software-app distribution marketplace being available, lessening the advantage of a proprietary, native app from carriers or handset manufacturers.

According to Fiore, more merchants are upgrading their point-of-sale systems to accept mobile apps, a fact that credit unions and others are noticing.

Apple announced on Sept. 9 that its iPhone 6 models have NFC capability, which takes the Cupertino, CA, company one step closer to offering its own mobile wallet. This is an entirely new category of service, for Apple, said CEO Tim Cook as he introduced Apple Pay. Our vision is to replace [the wallet] and we’re going to start by focusing on payments.

Cook was referring to digital wallets replacing physical wallets, and as Callahan writer Drew Grossman observed last week, if Apple snares a couple hundred million users in this payments game, that could change everything.

Meanwhile, Isis says its transition to Softcard will take place over the next few weeks. After the launch is complete, updates to the Isis app will automatically rebrand as Softcard.

Now, if only the ISIS crisis could be solved so easily, too.

September 12, 2014

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