Thursday, February 24, 2005

Digital Wallet

From Smart phones work like train tickets.

This story is not really news considering Howard Rheingold talked about it years ago.

TOKYO, Japan (AP) -- Some 10 million Japanese commuters use smart cards embedded with a computer chip to pay for train tickets and slip by station gates with just a tap of their plastic on special reading devices.

With a service planned for launch in January next year, they'll be able to use their mobile phones in place of the cards to pay for their train fares, a Japanese train company, a top mobile operator and Sony Corp. said Tuesday.

The Suica electronic train-fare system uses Sony's IC chip technology called FeliCa, which is also used in other kinds of electronic cash cards.

The cards are embedded with a tiny computer chip that permits instantaneous payments without the hassle of coins.

Some DoCoMo phones already have an IC chip in them and can be used for purchases at stores that have electronic panels that can read the cards. More than 2 million FeliCa handsets have been sold in Japan.

But so far, the phones haven't been compatible with Suica, the widespread smart-card system for trains, a service run by East Japan Railway Co. that began about three years ago.

The companies will test out the new service in March through their joint venture FeliCa Networks Inc. and hope to attract a million people next year, they said.

Bringing together Suica and cell phones may boost already massive IC chip usage here because Japanese are among the most avid users of cell phones in the world, including various Net-linking features such as restaurant guides, news, e-mail and karaoke.

Users will also be able to use their Suica-compatible cell phones to pay at some restaurants, convenience stores and shops.

The service will later be expanded to include online shopping and reserved ticket purchases, the companies said.

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