[Dave Birch] Back from eastern Europe, I was speaking at the FT Mobile conference in London today, so I’ve been thinking about mobile phones again, except when the guy from Naked News was talking. Actually, he did make me think: he said “content is king”, despite the fact that it transparently isn’t. Every delegate at the conference had a handout from the FT showing that the income of the top 10 telecommunications companies in the world was over half a trillion dollars last year. DoCoMo alone earned nearly £53 billion.

DoCoMo are fascinating. European digital money fanboys (eg, me) are fixated on DoCoMo’s experiments with the obviously storming overlap between mobile and contactless technologies. Now that one of Japan’s biggest retail groups (Aeon) has thrown its weight behind DoCoMo. Convenience store chain operator Family Mart Co. plans to add contactless payment to its stores within the next year, and Sumitomo Mitsui Card will add contactless compatibility to the credit card terminals it has in retailers in Japan. Am/pm Japan (a convenience store like 7-Eleven) also said that it will begin accepting contactless payments in all 1,350 of its convenience stores across Japan by the end of this year. Phew!

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Now check this out. The money continues to flow. NTT DoCoMo and LAWSON announced a business alliance that will result in customers using DoCoMo’s Osaifu-Keitai phones with wallet functions at LAWSON convenience stores, such as making credit card payments and obtaining information about store promotions. DoCoMo is taking a 2% stake in LAWSON. Initially, about 100 LAWSON convenience stores will introduce DoCoMo’s “iD” credit card payment service for “Osaifu-Keitai” wallet services by April 30, 2006. The service will be expanded to all LAWSON stores nationwide by March 31, 2007.

What’s interesting is that there are now two contactless payment options on the handsets. These are the aforementioned iD credit card and the EDY purse (prepaid). Both options ate attracting wide-ranging interest. EDY is provided by Bitwallet: Intel has just invested
5 billion yen in Bitwallet. Intel and Bitwallet say that they will cooperate to make it easier and safer to make PC-based e-purse payments for music, movies and other digital content as well as goods. Note that last year, approximately 2-3% of EDY’s 110 million transactions were PC-based transactions.

DoCoMo has already introduced the successor to the Osaifu-Keitai phone: the DCMX credit-card phone. For small purchases it uses EDY with no authentication and for larger purchases it uses iD with PIN (they claim that in the future the phone’s camera will be used for biometric authentication for larger purchases).

Meanwhile, in the UK, the latest and most advanced mobile financial service is the ability to see your current account balance (after registering for the service, if your bank offers it, and setting up yet another PIN).


  1. re EDY with no authentication. Whats to stop someone wandering through crowded areas with a reader ‘grabbing’ money off people? Would a realistically high powered reader allow readings at say 2 or 3ft, without frying anyone, in which case this would be enough to target people in crowded areas such as railway stations?
    Whilst in theory the miscreants might be trackable, this type of scam has happened before with people setting up automatic diallers to their own premium rate numbers and moving the money on long before anyone noticed. If I took only a few $ each time and the log/bill when it arrived said “XYZ coffee and snack shop” it might take a long time for people to notice and complain and the complaints to be investigated, maybe several weeks. By that time, I am now the ABC newsagents.

  2. Ah – the old electronic pickpocketing device. I wonder whether the sort of person who intends to go around reading cards in that way would be particularly bothered if he fried his victims while doing it.

  3. It’s not much of a crime. If you did “e-pickpocket’, the only place you could send the e-cash is into an EDY merchant account.

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