[Dave Birch] Well, I have to start this post by saying a big thank you: actually, a set of big thank yous. Thank you to Visa Europe and Webmoney for sponsoring this year’s Digital Money Forum: I’ve already received some exceedingly complimentary e-mails about the event and it just wouldn’t be possible without the support of sponsors like these (ie, sponsors who share the Forum’s goals for discussion, debate and learning). Thank you to everyone who came: as always we cut it off at 100 people, and all of them joined in the conversation. Thank you to ACI Worldwide for sponsoring the pub quiz and drinks, which were tremendous fun: the Digital Money Mastermind 2008 was Dominic Peachey from the Financial Service Authority. And a special thanks to my blogpals: Chris Skinner (UK), Scott Loftesness (USA), Colin Henderson (Canada) and Aneace Haddad (Singapore). It was a pleasure to sit on a panel with them today on the “Meet the Bloggers” panel moderated by Steve Bowbrick.

Anyway, in the mobile panel session at the Digital Money Forum today, there was a debate over the use of contactless mobiles in Japan. I’ve just looked up the figures that were in my head in the report I was thinking about. I love the tone of this report — someone sent me the link a couple of days ago. It concerns a survey (last month) of Japanese mobile phone users which found that:

Meanwhile, the ratios of respondents who have used “GPS (global positioning services)” and the “Osaifu-Keitai/FeliCa (contactless mobile IC card)” functions were low at 18.7 and 15.5%, respectively.

[From Survey: Less Than 20% Japanese Use Cellphone as Contactless IC Card, GPS — Tech-On!]

Only a sixth of mobile phone subscribers use their handsets as contactless wallets! ONLY A SIXTH!! Well, here in the U.K. it’s about 0.001% so I’m quite jealous. Not just of Japan, but of lots of other places. One of Consult Hyperion’s newest clients is based in Georgia, where the People’s Bank has already started rolling out an NFC service:

In 2008 our clients will be able to use this service in more than 1 000 locations. We plan to equip more than 150 billboards with RFID tags for NFC mobiles. People’s Bank is starting an instalment payment plan to make NFC mobile phones available to substantial parts of the population. Iberia Business Group made the decision to award everyone who buys a car at their company an NFC mobile for free.

[From The FINANCIAL, News That Makes Money, Business News & Multimedia – NFC Mobile Phones Now in Georgia]

As we are all beginning to understand, though, it’s not individual NFC pilots or even applications that are important for the future of payments but the evolution of the ecosystem and, as was repeatedly said on the panel, the co-operation between banks and operators needed to make that ecosystem animate. The cooperation may go as far as joint ventures as, for example, in Norway where DnB and Telenor have announced plans to establish a mobile payments venture.

The new mobile payments venture, called Trusted Service Manager (TSM) Nordic, will be a subsidiary of Doorstep – a joint venture owned 50/50 by DnB Nor and Telenor. The new company will distribute and maintain payment cards and tickets in handsets on behalf of issuers and in cooperation with mobile operators as well as “look into business opportunities”, say the partners. The move comes at the same time as a public trial [that] utilises MasterCard’s PayPass contactless technology, which will enable customers to pay for low value purchases at certain retailers in Oslo city centre by tapping their handsets on a specially-equipped terminal. Customers are also able to pay for and store travel tickets using their handsets.

[From Finextra: DnB Nor and Telenor form mobile payments unit]

There are different models emerging, of course. One might envisage multi-operator solutions — like multi-bank processors in a way — or entirely independent third parties. Incidentally, I remember seeing a presentation about a previous attempt to set up a mobile payments venture between banks and operators in Norway that explained how the entire effort had been subverted by the cultural mismatch: the operators advertisement asked customers to text if they wanted to join the mobile payment scheme. What they got back was not a text message telling them they were now enabled (or whatever) but, several days later, a 16 page application form from the bank. I’m sure the new joint venture will learn from this.

One point that went past on the panel without much comment was the more technical issue of standardisation in the NFC world, which has moved forward quite a bit (in fact, there were a couple of the new Nokias in the room today). The delay in standardisation has meant that the handset market has not yet developed, a constant complaint, but I hope that it can at last begin to deliver to great new models.

Wider adoption of near field communications with mobile phones took a further step forward with the European Telecoms Standardization Institute ETSI’s Smart Card Platform Technical Committee approving the specification for the Host Controller Interface. The interface, one of the most important for NFC, sits within the management layers between the smart card platform and an NFC applications processor in mobile phones.

[From ETSI pushes standards for NFC with mobiles]

I’m going to be speaking on NFC at ETSI’s Radio Solution 2008 conference in the South of France in May. No reason to mention that, except to let you know that I’ll be in the South of France in May. Wonderful.

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


  1. Dave and all at Consult Hyperion. This year’s Forum was fantastic, speakers were great, lively panel debates and met some good networking contacts, which underpins one of the themes running through the presentations, that sometimes we need to collaborate to turn our innovations into commercial realty.

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