Japanese Cell Phones Work as Smart Cards
Dec 15, 2003
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Cell phones in Japan will work as concert tickets, identification cards, and electronic wallets in a new service by the nation's top mobile carrier, NTT DoCoMo, that uses smart card technology developed by Sony Corp.

The service starts on a trial basis Dec. 17 and is the first result of NTT DoCoMo's partnership with Japanese electronics giant Sony that was announced in October, NTT DoCoMo said.

Currently, Japan is said to lead the world in new cell phone features such as digital cameras and Internet links. People in some European countries and Taiwan can also use their mobile phones to access the Internet. In South Korea, cell phones use IR and radio waves to make electronic payments.

Developed by Sony, the technology -- dubbed FeliCa -- uses a computer chip embedded in a card that permits payments for purchases or train tickets. Users just need to hold the cards near special machines that communicate with the chips.

Some 19 million FeliCa cards are now being used in Japan for train passes or electronic payments, according to Sony. The new service, which uses that technology in cell phones, was demonstrated by the various providers to the media on Dec. 15.

In one service, users download a concert or movie ticket from an Internet site, paying with a credit card. The user then brings the mobile phone to the theater for quick prepaid entry.

Tokyo computer-game maker Sega Corp. will also participate in the new service by allowing people to pay in advance for arcade games by putting cash into a special machine that relays that information into a FeliCa-equipped cell phone, Sega officials said.

During the trial service, which continues until the summer of 2004, NTT DoCoMo will supply 27 service providers with two handset models. A commercial service is being planned for sometime next year, but details are still undecided.

Developed in 1988, Sony's FeliCa smart card technology is widely used in Japanese train systems and is also used in Hong Kong. NTT DoCoMo has said it hopes to offer the FeliCa service overseas. (AP)

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