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Sunday, July 07, 2002


Along, probably, with tens of other telephone operators around the world, Telefonica here in Spain have been shelling out millions, in conjunction with the major Spanish banks, on a sure bet for the future; the mobile phone as a payment system node.

Now news from America, together with buzz from SE Asia generally, shows how this is unlikely to be the case. The prototype for the improved technology come from motorwat toll-booth rapid pass technology. Just wheel your trolley on through!

The freezing of mobile technology development due to the heavy indebtedness of the Telecoms means they are about to be overtaken by just about everyone else in the business.Still, my favourite idea for the future remains that of mobile bar code comparisons; flashing your mobile up against a product to discover where you can find it cheaper, and then going to the section manager to look for a better price armed with the evidence. After all we don't want to waste precious time and shoe leather, now do we?

From gas stations to grocery stores to fast-food chains, merchants are experimenting with payment systems for a harried marketplace. Using radio frequency identification — or RFID — the systems automatically identify customers, who have set up credit or debit accounts with the issuer, and charge them for their purchases.

The RFID payment systems are similar in some ways to stored-value cards and the programmable "smart cards" used by Starbucks and a growing number of merchants. Those cards automatically deduct money for purchases from prepaid accounts or charge them to a personal account.

But RFID systems are much faster than other types of payment. There is no fumbling through a wallet, no punching in personal identification numbers, no signatures — and, most certainly, no Web browsing. All that is needed is a tiny device called a transponder that might hang on a customer's key chain and is waved in front of an electronic reader like a magic wand.

"Mobile commerce" once conjured up visions of the masses buying movie tickets and all sorts of merchandise on the go from their cellphones. But that vision, like so many overblown Internet expectations, never quite materialized. The high-speed wireless technology needed for such transactions has been slow to reach the market, mainly because it is so expensive. Cellphones, with their tiny keypads, have proved too cumbersome for much more than talking.
Source: New York Times

One more big step for humanity (no more mindless queuing in the supermarket), and one small step for the encroaching singularity.

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