Taiwan alliance pioneers mobile phone electronic payment system
Reports by Danyll Wills
Philips is collaborating with BenQ to develop an internationally compatible handset that will allow users to pay for small items such as rail tickets
A TAIWANESE alliance is developing a mobile phone that it hopes will soon enable citizens to pay for a variety of small items such as mass-transit rail tickets, newspapers and even cups of coffee.
Taiwan's Proximity Mobile Transaction Service Alliance (PMTSA) recently welcomed Dutch company Philips into its fold, which is planning to develop a mobile phone that will handle such payments with the help of electronic vendor BenQ.
The first project will cover public transport.
The technology being used is called near field communication (NFC), which is a combination of contactless identification and interconnection technologies that work over short distances.
The technology is said to be easy, secure and fast, and is compatible with other wireless technology standards such as Bluetooth and Wi-fi.
NFC operates in the 13.56MHz frequency range within a short distance of a few centimetres. It conforms to international standards ISO 18092 and ECMA (340, 352 and 356).
Like the MIFARE technology from Philips and the FeliCa card from Sony, NFC also meets the ISO 14443 Type A standard.
Marconi Jiang, the general manager for Philips Semiconductor in Taiwan, said the PMTSA was able to work together far more quickly than similar alliances.
'The speed at which the alliance has been able to complete this first phase of development speaks volumes for the focus and technological prowess of its members,' he said.
'With the development of a fully functioning prototype payment device and field testing under way, the time is right to implement this intuitive technology throughout Taiwan's mobile handset industry.'
There are two Philips chips at the heart of the BenQ-developed phone. The NFC PN511 is an ISO 18092-compliant chip that provides the interface and handles the contactless reader. The Philips Smart MX P5CN072 is a 16-bit multi-application microprocessor that will take care of security and manage applications.
To help push the adoption of the technology, Philips will provide free NFC development kits for engineers and software developers who are interested in working with PMTSA-compliant devices.
'Philips Semiconductors is fully committed to providing local developers with the technical resources and NFC expertise to help make contactless mobile transactions prevalent across Taiwan,' Mr Jiang said.
'This will put Taiwan at the forefront of what promises to be a global trend.'
Philips believes it is essential to help software developers write the kind of applications that will be able to take advantage of this technology. Without the support of the developers, projects like these cannot succeed.
The technology has been experimented with in Finland and Estonia, where 75 per cent of parking spaces are paid for with mobile phones, although the method of payment in that part of the world is different.
The rest of Asia is watching with interest.
China, meanwhile, is planning to use smart cards as a ticketing system for visiting the Great Wall at Badaling and at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.