An alliance of business and universities has been established to develop a technology with the potential to revolutionise personal banking and finance in the Asia region. The technology, expected to become commercially available in the second half of next year, will allow consumers to insert smart cards into mobile phones to conduct electronic transactions such as paying bills, on-line banking and trading stocks. The grouping, known as Asia Mobile Electronic Services Alliance, comprises 15 companies including Standard Chartered Bank and Microsoft as well as universities from Hong Kong and Singapore. The other companies and universities are: Ericsson, Gemplus Technologies, Hongkong Post, Motorola, Nokia, SingNet, Singapore Post, SingTel Mobile, SmarTone Communications, Visa International as well as the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology, Open University of Hong Kong and the National University of Singapore. The services will initially be available in Hong Kong and Singapore and only to users of Standard Chartered's Visa smart cards. Mervyn Davies, Standard Chartered Bank's executive director for North Asia, said yesterday: 'This is the first time that 15 industry leaders have come together, each one bringing with it expertise in infrastructure, technology, services and a wide market reach.' He said the alliance was 'greater than the sum of its parts and the benefits to consumers in terms of information and service delivery were potentially enormous. 'We've got to be part of the [information technology] revolution, and if not we're going to be left behind.' Nicholas Fung, Standard Chartered's head of chip and e-commerce, said the alliance's commercial partners would collectively invest 'tens of millions of US dollars' in the project. 'There isn't a fixed investment,' he said. Mr Fung said other countries were in talks to join the alliance, and the standard for the platform would be open, meaning that other parties could use the technology to build their own services. The technology will be based on Visa's Open Platform and security of the transactions and protection of data will be enhanced through the use of Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) encryption. Hongkong Post has been appointed by the Government as a third-party Certificate Authority, meaning it must build the PKI network and issue digital certificates to consumers and corporations that want to conduct e-commerce. The alliance's academic partners will conduct research and development for the project and run pilot tests on their campuses. The move will revolutionise smart card transactions by being the first to bring together smart card, mobile phone, PKI and open standard technologies. At present, smart card transactions are usually carried out at fixed terminals such as computers or multi-media kiosks. Harel Kodesh, vice-president of the productivity appliance division at Microsoft, said: 'The Asia Mobile Electronic Services Alliance marks a major milestone for the convergence of two powerful emerging technologies - smart card and the Internet. 'Microsoft's Smart Cards for Windows will give alliance partners and consumers maximum flexibility and unlimited choice of applications.' In a separate move involving transactions conducted over mobile phones announced yesterday, Hutchison Telecom said that in July it would launch banking services that would enable the transfer of funds from American Express Bank accounts in Hong Kong to accounts at other Hong Kong-based banks. Hongkong Telecom also recently launched mobile-phone banking services with Citibank, although the service is accessible only though certain models of Motorola handsets.