[Dave Birch] In his presentation to EEMA, my colleague Neil McEvoy calls for the creation of an identity utility, to be used by government, business and individuals alike. Neil mentions that the NFC-equipped mobile phone could be the critical device to make this a reality, because the mobile phone can act as both the identity provider and the identity consumer. So will there be enough mobile phones, and will enough of them have NFC, to make this a realistic vision? Well, in many countries (eg, the U.K), mobile penetration is already over 100%. Nokia alone sold 348 million handsets last year. There are nearly half a billion mobile phone users in China. 49 million handsets were shipped in Japan last year. ABI Research forecasts that by 2012, some 292 million handsets (more than 20% of the global mobile handset market) will ship with built-in near-field-communications capabilities.

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What dynamic is there when mobile and contactless come together? Let’s look at Japan, where they have already collided. The number of mobile-wallet phones sold in Japan since 2004 will reach 50 million by early 2009, according to FeliCa Networks, the joint venture between contactless chip supplier Sony and contactless chip user NTT DoCoMo. That’s twice as many wallet phones, called “Osaifu Keitai,” as had been sold by March 2007 by the country’s three major mobile operators, DoCoMo, KDDI and SoftBank. Sony predicts handset sales incorporating FeliCa could reach 40 million by the end of this year or early 2008 according to Ted Osamura, general manager of Sony’s FeliCa business division:

That means 60% of mobile phones in Japan (will) have FeliCa function

This doesn’t mean 40 million wallet phones will be in circulation at any one time because — Sony has shipped 47 million FeliCa chips for wallet phone — not all of them yet incorporated in handsets sold to subscribers. The Japanese mobile network operators, not only DoCoMo, have included the contactless chips in a combined 76 phone models they’ve introduced as of January 2007. About a quarter of subscribers possessing wallet phones use one or more contactless applications. Sony notes more than 70 service providers are using the chips, but the most-used applications are still retail payment and mass transit. But note the key figure: next year, almost two-thirds of Japanese phones will have a contactless interface.

I’d say that if what’s happening in the Asia-Pacific region is anything to go by, Neil’s assumption that the NFC-equipped mobile phone will turn out to to be the critical component of a modern national identity management scheme looks to be pretty sound.

If you would like to read the full version of Neil’s paper on identity as utility, here it is…

Eema Mcevoy Utility

These opinions are my own (I think) and are presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto]

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