Tuesday, October 25, 2011

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    SINGAPORE: You may be able to pay for your purchases by "tapping" your mobile phone at more than 20,000 retail points and taxis by mid-2012.

    This is made possible through a technology called Near Field Communication (NFC).

    It uses the concept of a contactless card, such as EZ-Link cards but a mobile phone in this instance, opening up a wider range of options.

    For example, users may tap their phones against an NFC-enabled menu to place an order at a restaurant.

    They may also tap their phones against a movie poster to buy movie tickets.

    This service is made possible through a consortium which was set up after the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) of Singapore made a Call-for-Collaboration with industry players to set up a nationwide NFC infrastructure in 2010.

    IDA decided to award the Call-for-Collaboration to a consortium comprising seven companies.

    The companies include the three mobile operators - M1, SingTel and StarHub - and payment service providers Citibank, DBS and EZ-Link as well as Gemalto, a digital security company which serves as a neutral third party linking up the payment service providers to the telcos.

    IDA and the seven companies will invest S$40 million on the NFC infrastructure to reach out to all mobile subscribers in Singapore.

    Such a model will allow service providers to reach as many consumers as possible, which benefits both the service providers and consumers.

    Mr Tan Eng Pheng, who is senior director of the industry cluster group at IDA, said: "Through the interoperability model, it will allow the service providers to reach as many mobile operators as possible,without the need to individually establish technical connections, separate business agreements and keep having them updated.

    "We feel this will help the service provider to improve its time to market and reduce its barrier in terms of having to invest efforts and resources in knowing the details on how to establish technical connections with different mobile operators."

    This means consumers will also get access to new services more quickly, especially with the IDA hoping to get more banks and service providers on board.

    DBS' senior vice-president and head of cards and unsecured loans Ms Ooi Huey Tyng, said: "We observed that contactless transactions has already increased in the past one year by 20 per cent. And we believe that will quadruple in the next three years with the mass adoption."

    Consumers will need an NFC-enabled phone to pay wirelessly. This includes selected models from Nokia, Samsung and Blackberry.

    Phones which are not NFC-enabled, such as Apple's iPhone, may need to be installed with a bridging device to enjoy these services.

    Merchants which already accept contactless payment cards will be able to offer the service.

    Those that currently accept contactless payment cards from MasterCard, Visa or CEPAS will be able to use the same device to accept such payment.

    IDA also said eventually more banks and card issuers are expected to connect to the infrastructure, allowing consumers to choose from a wider variety of payment options.

    Authorities said much care will be put into data security, to protect consumers who lose their phones.

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