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Near Field Communications

New Visa pay-by-cellphone system goes on trial in Malaysia: Honk if you like the idea

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Hands-on with Sony Ericsson's G9 and the KDDI iida mini projector

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Americans, virtuous and true, would you use your cellphone as a credit card? That is, instead of whipping out the plastic in front of some high school kid manning the register at Target, would you wave your connected-to-your-credit-card-account cellphone in front of a scanner? In the blink of an eye your transaction is completed, with the total amount being charged to your credit card account. Such a sci-fi way of paying for goods and services rendered just went on trial in Malaysia, home to those neat towers we hear so much about.

The name of the technology here is Near Field Communications (that’s also where this here photo comes from). Visa, which is responsible for the trial over there, likes to shorten that to NFC; figures. NFC is related to RFID, so be sure to pack your tin foil hat.

Here, a person configures their Nokia cellphone—only Nokia cellphones work so far, and Nokia is the only cellphone manufacturer to show any interest in NFC technology—with their credit card information. Then, when at a participating store (a store with the equipment capable of reading the NFC signal), you simply wave about your phone at the register, and off you go.

Yes, it’s similar to what the Japanese have been doing for some time now.

This is where I ask if something like this interests you at all. Well, does it? Are you concerned that some n’er-do-well will steal your credit card information (as if your credit card information is safe to begin with!) when you go to buy Lucky Louie on DVD at the store?

I’d sign up for such a program quick-like. Less time spent at the register, chit-chatting about nothing at all, is terrific in my book.

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