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Mobile Wallets Are Coming

Despite some recent troubles with mobile phones in its home market, Japanese government officials said Tuesday they will aggressively push its mobile technology abroad.
Despite some recent troubles with mobile phones in its home market, Japanese government officials said Tuesday they will aggressively push its mobile technology abroad.As you may or not know, Japanese cell phones have long been ahead of the curve. For a while now, Japanese wireless subscribers have been able to read e-books, take pictures, surf the Web, and get streaming video from their handsets. But, the one thing that has made me truly jealous is the ability to use the phone as an electronic wallet.

That technology may be coming abroad sooner that you think, according to an Associated Press story:


Among the wireless innovations Japan hopes to peddle is the wallet phone. The technology relies on a tiny computer chip called FeliCa, embedded in each cell phone, which communicates with a reader-device at stores, train stations, and vending machines for cashless payments.

FeliCa was developed by Japanese electronics and entertainment company Sony Corp. Such technology is more common in smart cards, popular in Singapore and parts of Europe. But Japan hopes to market the technology abroad for cell phones.

I'm a big fan of a mobile wallet and can't wait for it to spread. I know, some will say 'What happens if somebody steals your cell phone?' Well, I'd react the same way if somebody stole my credit card: curse loudly, and then immediately call to cancel the service. And yes, not having my cell phone will make it harder to call them, but society was able to get along without cell phones at one time.

Additionally, I'm sure the financial institutions have security as their highest priority. I spoke with Simon Pugh, head of MasterCard's global mobile payments strategy, and he confirmed this.

"While convenience is great, we want to make sure our moves in the mobile market cause no damage to the brand," Pugh said. "We have, and will continue to implement, a comprehensive end-to-end security model."

Visa also is diving into the mobile banking market to provide customers more convenience, and to nab some more transaction fees, of course. A recent Juniper Research report also said 816 million customers will be accessing banking services and products through their cell phones within three years.

But, even with all these reports and new technologies coming out, I can honestly say I've never heard someone who's not in the business clamoring to bank on their cell phone. What do you think? Is this being pushed on an unwilling public, or will mobile banking/electronic wallets explode in popularity after the security concerns are fully addressed?