Technology companies and mobile operators joined forces on Monday to plan a global standard for electronic wallets in mobile phones.
Developers described a future where consumers around the world touch a terminal with a mobile phone and access a range of services.
“Consumers will be able to enjoy multiple applications such as payment and transport ticketing from various service providers on one device,” they said.
Sony Corp. from Japan and Netherlands-based NXP Semiconductors said they will create a joint venture, to be established by the middle of next year, that will plan, develop, produce and market a secure chip that will include both companies’ contactless chip card formats: Mifare and FeliCa.
Mifare — developed by NXP which was formerly known as Philips Semiconductors — and Felica developed by Sony are two of the most widely used formats in secure contactless chips that are embedded in access cards for buildings and public transport as well as mobile phones which double as electronic wallets.
Other contactless card operating systems and applications will also be supported by the joint venture. Mifare and FeliCa already share the same short-range wireless infrastructure technology called Near Field Communication (NFC).
The move by Sony and Philips got support from the GSM association, which bands together the world’s major mobile operators. It said 14 operators including China Mobile, Vodafone, Cingular — owned by AT&T Inc and BellSouth Corp — and Telefonica would support one common NFC format on the mobile phones they distribute for their networks.
In Japan, 12.6 million consumers already have their credit card embedded in a chip in their mobile phone, and they can pay for purchases by swiping their phone over a wireless reader.
“By combining this secure chip with an NFC chip, a universal contactless IC (integrated circuit) platform can be created for mobile phones,” both companies said in a statement.
As a result, mobile device manufacturers and service providers around the world will be able to design products and services which are compatible with the different contactless chip protocols and operating systems already in use.
Mifare claims to be the most widely installed contactless smart card technology in the world with about 1.2 billion smart card chips and more than seven million reader modules sold. Current shipments of FeliCa chips stand at 170 million units and of these 30 million are mobile FeliCa chips for use in mobile phones in Japan.
The GSM association said NFC could open up a major new mobile market, as a mobile phone is transformed into a payment and ticketing device.
It added that the NFC technology, together with the SIM card, had the potential to marry the ubiquity of the mobile device with a range of consumer services.
“By extending the power of a familiar and much loved device we will simplify the lives of mobile customers giving them the freedom to leave travel, payment, and other cards at home,” Mung-Ki Woo, vice president Payment and Contactless Services at Orange from France Telecom said in the statement.
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