Mobiles hope to be ’smart wallet’


All Saints

Your mobile could be your ticket to concerts

Mobile phones are closer to becoming smart wallets, following agreement among mobile operators on an approach to near field communications (NFC).

NFC is a short-range wireless technology like RFID tags, which are used to track stock by retailers.

The tags inside phones could have personal information stored in them and so could act as car keys, money, tickets and travel cards.

Mobile firms representing 40% of the global mobile market back NFC.

Alex Sinclair, chief technology officer of the GSM Association, which represents the mobile industry, said: "Interoperability and standardisation are the fundamental requirements for mobile market success.

"NFC opens up a wide range of possibilities and we are committed to ensuring the mobile industry works together to realise its potential."

Two elements

There are two elements to NFC technology, which is sometimes called "contactless" applications – a tag, which is inside the phone and can store data and transmit it wirelessly, and a reader, which can access the information stored on tags.

A mobile equipped with NFC technology could, for example, buy a concert ticket over the phone which would then hold those details, together with the details of the phone user, on the tag inside the handset.

An RFID device at the concert would then "read" the concert ticket details on the tag when the phone is passed close to it.

NFC technology could also be used to exchange data between phones, such as photos and music.

Mobile phones are seen as powerful tools for NFC technology because they are able to download new pieces of information – from topping up a travel card, to new songs, ticket information and electronic keycard data etc.

‘Sensible’ move

Mike Roberts, principal analyst for Informa Telecoms and Mobile, said the move was a sensible one for mobile operators.

"Operators need to boost mobile voice revenues and need to ensure the mobile phone remains important to people.

"This is a significantstep: NFC is a good technology because it fits into mobile phones very readily.

"It is low power and low cost. The only thing the mobie industry has to do is find something useful to do with the technology."

No timescale for the development of NFC technology has been given. Fourteen mobile network operators are working together to develop NFC applications.

They are Bouygues Telecom, China Mobile, Cingular Wireless, KPN, Mobilkom Austria, Orange, SFR, SK Telecom, Telefonica Móviles España, Telenor, TeliaSonera, TIM, Vodafone and 3.

The 14 firms are part of the GSM Association, which represents 700 mobile operators around the world.

* The number of people in the UK using their mobiles to access the internet is growing, the Mobile data association has reported.

A total of 40.7m users were recorded as having used their phones for downloads and browsing the mobile internet in the UK during the third quarter of 2006.

The total number of users recorded in July was 13m, which had increased to 14m by September.


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