Not that Hong Kong shoppers need any further encouragement, but the emergence of a new technology will soon make it possible for them to snap up the latest designer-label shoes or handbags faster than they can say Prada. Near Field Communication (NFC) is a short-range wireless technology engineered to work in mobile phones. NFC-enabled mobile phones will, in effect, become electronic wallets linked to the bank accounts of their owners, who will be able to pay for their purchases and gain access to public transport without physically tendering a cent. 'It is a technological breakthrough in telecommunications. People can make payments simply by using their mobile phones enabled by this technology,' said Danny Cheung Wai-kin, vice-president and business manager for Hong Kong and Macau at MasterCard Worldwide. 'This NFC-enabled phone bundles a variety of features, such as credit card payment and [the ability to] download e-coupons from smart posters to enjoy discounts at restaurants and shops, or electronic maps to help find your bearings. People can save the time and trouble cutting out coupons from newspapers and magazines,' said Mr Cheung. 'The platform for this technology already exists and can be accessed globally.' Though new to Hong Kong, the technology is already in use in the United States and Europe. The network of shops that use the system is expanding rapidly; payments can already be made this way at 46,000 shops across the world. Nonetheless, security has not been sacrificed at the expense of convenience - the system requires the phone owner to enter a password or code issued by the bank to activate the payment process. According to Nelson Tse Siu-kong, chairman of Hong Kong Retail Technology Industry Association, which has more than 800 members engaged in technology-related business, a pilot NFC scheme will be launched in Hong Kong at the end of this year in conjunction with the government and participating banks and retailers. 'During the trial period, the phone owner's signature is only required on a receipt for payment above HK$200 for security reasons,' said Mr Cheung. 'The wide adoption of this technology will help Hong Kong retailers with their business growth and expand into the China and overseas markets,' said Mr Tse, who is also sales and marketing director at Million Tech Development, a company that provides automatic identification system solutions and products. 'With a shared technological platform worldwide, tourists with NFC-enabled mobile phones from across the globe will enjoy the convenience of this technology-driven payment system, which will greatly enhance their shopping experience in Hong Kong and give a boost to our retail industry as a result.' According to Kenneth Chan Kin-hung, associate director for consumer research at ACNielsen Hong Kong, every six out of 10 Hong Kong mobile phone users between the ages of 15 and 45 bought a mobile phone in the past 12 months. This puts Hong Kong first in the ranks of Asia-Pacific countries, ex Japan, in terms of frequency of new phone purchases. Major mobile phone makers such as Nokia, Samsung and Motorola already sell NFC-compatible phones in the US and Europe. Gadget-loving, big-spending Hong Kong consumers are sure to embrace this technological big bang, and retailers are bracing for the shockwave.