Host card emulation is a technology that lets NFC applications function as smart cards. For consumers, this enables mobile payments via that NFC app. For banks and financial institutions, the technology allows them to save money by maintaining payment accounts in the cloud.
The technology was first deployed in 2012 and is seen as a way to speed mobile NFC adoption by card companies like Visa and MasterCard. By replacing the Secure Element traditionally used to host NFC applications, HCE technology promises an easier deployment for merchants, with lower costs and few changes to existing payment infrastructures.