A Tale of Two Mobile Technologies
A Tale of Two Mobile Technologies

A Tale of Two Mobile Technologies

A Tale of Two Mobile Technologies

The recent round of international press devoted to ‘the next big thing for mobile’ has an interesting, and recurring, theme. It started with a fair amount of mainstream media attention devoted to the statements made at CTIA during Visa’s keynote address regarding the evolution of mobile payments. Around the same time we notice that Capt. Kirk went boldly where no ex-pat Canadian would dare go (Toronto in March) to attend this presser with Ted Rogers promoting a new fangled mobile web-cam handset, which the company breathlessly hailed as “a landmark in wireless communications”.

We also noticed this special op-ed from Card Technology about how Sony is potentially challenged to get their m-commerce product outside of Japan. The article did some great work, however there’s plenty of room for a counter-point discussion. One thing rings true, both of these technologies were deployed here in Japan years ago and like the camera-phone will begin making their way into markets overseas in due course.

Video calling via DoCoMo’s FOMA network started beta trials in spring of 2001 and by October of that year became commercially available despite the fact that a true 3G ‘global standard’ was still some years — and many meetings at swank hotels around the world — away. The domestic market has seen the same evolution of so-called Tap & Go embedded RFID chips, evolving from plastic cards to handsets over basically the same time frame. It should be noted that both Sony and Phillips have been working together on this technology, and were key-founders of the NFC Forum in 2004. However, Sony was not content to wait the last 3 or 4 years for the final ISO before getting their product launched. The result, of course, is the company has already shipped over 40mln FeliCa branded chips to mobile handset makers and Sony can easily now begin writing to the latest “Type-B”global standard.

This other article, also via Card Tech., highlights JR’s disappointing first year results with Suica. WWJ’s Mobile Year in Review newsletter lamented the original decision to tie the re-charging functionality to their in-house View credit card, a requirement dropped in October once they had skimmed the low-hanging fruit. However, JR managed to get ‘only’ 350,000 customers signed-on despite that initial barrier, pretty slick. It has since opened the system to other major credit card holders and the system is finally interoperable with other subway lines as well. One crucial point missed in that article is the limited number of handsets that would initially work with Suica readers. While there were 76 Osaifu Keitai (wallet phone) models available at the time, perhaps only a dozen were compatible with the download app. that JR required users to install. Look for rapid growth in subs by this time next year.

The moral of this little rant is that the Japanese way, called Kaizen, to launch and continually improve on their product is has proven results on a global scale, for several industries (automotive and solar power being two easy examples) beyond mobile.

— WWJ Editors

We’ve clipped a few more links below, which might be of interest.

– Vending machines in Atlanta will accept RFID card payments
Sounds almost like IC Card World circa 2003

– Why your next phone will be a wallet
Not sure where Mike Elgin (who finally mentions Japan on page 4) got the “100’s of thousands of mobile payment transactions per day” figure. We’d suggest it’s higher.

– Nokia stepped up for mobile payments announcing this JV late last year

– RFID Credit Cards Are Leaking Personal Data
No personal ID details on the basic ‘fetch & get’ transaction for prepaid chips in Japan.

– DoCoMo targets home nursing businesses with 3G video phone
We’ve always said when fixed-line and mobile video-conf. converge that would ramp adoption.