EMV Contactless Kernel Specification to Advance Contactless Acceptance Opens for Public Review


A new Europay, Mastercard and Visa (EMV) contactless kernel specification is being developed by the global technical body EMVCo to advance global contactless payment acceptance.

Following a detailed review in February and March, which was attended by company associates, a draft specification is now available on the EMVCo website for public review, which is open until 20 June. EMVCo now aims to publish the final specification, which is slated for release in the later months of this year its publication is approved by the EMVCo board of advisors.

A contactless kernel provides a set of 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 around the world, which technology vendors use to provide products that enable merchants to accept contactless payments.

For example, the payment software and consulting provider Amadis recently integrated its kernels into the new tap-to-pay service of Softpay.io. Doing so provided the service with the logic and data infrastructure to accept EMV payments on commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) devices such as mobile phones.

The complexity and cost of maintaining this multi-kernel environment has become a growing challenge for the payments community.

EMVCo’s EMV contactless kernel specification aims to address this challenge with an EMV kernel specification that all stakeholders can use for contactless payment acceptance.

Robin Trickel, EMVCo executive committee chairRobin Trickel, EMVCo executive committee chair
Robin Trickel

“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,” said Robin Trickel, EMVCo executive committee chair.

“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.”

To gauge the current needs and wants of the marketplace whilst the best approach for an EMV contactless kernel specification is determined, EMVCo considered its stakeholders on a routine basis, with engagement including a feasibility study, conducted by two independent consulting research firms.

The draft specification reflects this input with requirements and features designed to support the evolution of contactless and mobile payments, including advanced security technologies to protect against future threats.

Other features include a secure channel for protecting sensitive data, elliptic curve cryptography (ECC) for card authentication, biometric and mobile card verification methods, and an architecture that supports physical or cloud implementations and on-card data storage.

EMVCo also announced that it would provide approval testing for the contactless kernel specification through accredited and audited laboratories, and will publish a list of all approved EMV contactless kernels on its website

Submissions made during the public review will be evaluated, and amendments will be made to the draft specification. The board are due to then review the final specification and vote on whether to approve its publication.

  • Tyler is a Fintech Junior Journalist with specific interests in Online Banking and emerging AI technologies. He began his career writing with a plethora of national and international publications.