Are you ready for the Europay/MasterCard/Visa (EMV) standard to hit the United States? Can you explain to clients what EMV is and why they need to incorporate it into their POS systems? Do you have an EMV strategy that includes implementation and testing to be sure the technology works?

These are the questions to ask now as Visa Inc., MasterCard Worldwide and the other major card companies push the transition to the EMV standard in the United States. And for those seeking the answers, the EMV Academy may be the place to go.

The school launched shortly after Visa issued its August 2011 mandate to merchants to implement the EMV protocol or face new fraud liability. EMV Academy founders Stewart Chalmers and Mansour Karimzedah, the organization’s Executive Director and Chief Technical Officer, respectively, are veterans of EMV rollouts in various parts of the world, including Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.

“Now that the payment associations have put their stake in the ground and mandated the EMV infrastructure rollout in the United States, people still need to know how to make the thing work,” Chalmers said. “Most of the EMV expertise is outside the United States where EMV is the standard.”

The academy’s mission

The purpose of the school is to assist acquirers, merchants, issuers, vendors and others in the payments industry with their transition to the EMV standard. Karimzedah said the EMV rollout in the United States will bring challenges to ISOs the academy can help them address. “You need to know what is going into the marketplace and if you have to change or upgrade a POS system,” he said.

The academy provides public and private workshops and courses on both EMV and near field communication (NFC) technology. The curriculum lists 20 courses available online as well as via on-site training. It also provides tools to test EMV and NFC systems and offers consulting services that include advice from people who have implemented the standard elsewhere and know the pitfalls and problems that will arise as EMV makes its way into stores across the United States. Consultants can help clients address the technical challenges of migrating to the standard, including developing and implementing EMV payment systems.

EMV challenges ahead

Chalmers believes many terminals in use in the United States are practically antiques at 20 years old or more. “Many will need to be reconfigured or replaced,” he said. He noted it would be helpful for payment professionals to know whether a software download will be enough to implement the EMV standard, if rebuilding a terminal to meet EMV requirements makes sense or if new equipment is needed.

Chalmers also emphasized the importance of testing. “You have to test properly or it’s not going to work,” he said. “You need to test cards to do the testing properly. The cards come from card manufacturers. People forget about that. If issuers know about the issues they can pre-plan.” In addition, the academy recently launched a Preferred Partner Portal where it works with technology companies in specific segments of the EMV market, for example, issuance, card personalization, testing, certification, terminals and card manufacturing.

“The goal here is to develop a portal with leading edge technology solutions that cover the key elements of the EMV payment ecosystem.”