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Far-out east

By Dave Birch posted Feb 13 2008 at 5:07 PM
[Dave Birch] U.S. consumers are keen to use their mobile handsets for making in-store payments, but the majority only want to have one credit/debit account for making those purchases, according to an ABI Research survey of US consumer attitudes. Much of the work on developing a standard application platform across NFC handsets has been geared at providing a platform capable of supporting and managing multiple payment accounts from any number of credit and debit card issuers. However the ABI survey, carried out at the end of 2007, indicates that consumers would be happy with one. I'm not sure that this makes any difference to the architecture projects we're involved in though, which is, frankly, a reflection of the success of the GSMA telco-centric model of the world where that platform is the combination of the Trusted Service Manager (TSM) and Secure Element (SE). Yet I must again ask why there is such interest in a technology that consumers cannot buy in shops? It cannot be the solely down to the technology push, there is very clearly a very strong market pull as well. The Guardian says that mobile contactless will be "a cracker", the next key technology for the post-iPhone age, and points to Japan. Half of all the new mobile phones sold there already have the contactless interface built in, so phones are used as electronic cash for buying newspapers, electronic credit cards for larger-ticket items, as pre-paid tickets or season passes for travelling on trains and buses and as storage media for receiving discount coupons from restaurants and collecting a bewildering range of in-store cash-back-style points. The Guardian is not alone in looking east, rather than south (ie, to Barcelona, where the 3GSM jamboree is full on), for a window into the future of payments:

Check out this list of the five advanced technologies available only in Japan: True mobile digital TV (all the regular terrestrial channels at no cost), connected cars (with a navigation system connected to a cell phone), primary wave earthquake warning systems, and home-help robots. And my personal favorite is Osaifu keitai--mobile wallets. They put my so-called "smartphone" to shame

[From Reason Magazine - Hit & Run > Japanese Mobile Phones Smarter Than Average American]

Mobile payments in Japan are continuing to develop. From the first DoCoMo experiments with EDY, there are now multiple competing systems and the interconnection between banks and operators, cards and phones, is evolving at a pace. For example, last year Seven Bank ATMs began to support Seven-Eleven Japan's "nanaco" E-Money and the bank is also considering allowing users of other e-money services to make deposits and check their balances at its ATMs in the future. At present, users of "nanaco" services, available in either smart cards or mobile phones, can make deposits at checkout counters of Seven-Eleven Japan's convenience stores

In another cross-sector co-operation, MasterCard in Japan is parterning with operator Softbank, financial services firm Orient Corporation, smart card vendor Gemalto, handset maker Samsung and Hitachi to launch an NFC platform. MasterCard PayPass "cards" will be embedded in Softbank handsets to give international interoperability.

So, on the one hand it is reasonable to observe that the Japanese market is special and the position of DoCoMo is unique and that Japanese cultural attitudes toward money and cash are different and so on. All of this is true. But on the other hand, the big picture is that Japan is becoming a very competitive market and that there is an undoubted link between competition and innovation. If you build it, they will text...

These opinions are my own (I think) and presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto]


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