News reaches us that a Japanese credit card company, JCB International, is starting a two-month trial in November of a contactless payment system using mobile phones. It’s called QUICPay and the guinea pigs will be taxi drivers in one of the world’s busiest cities, Tokyo. The exercise makes sense in Japan where it has been found that people use cell phones more than they use credit cards, and the Kanachu Hire taxi company will make contactless payment history.
QUICPay will be tested with NTT DoCoMo mobile wallet service handsets that are embedded with Sony’s FeliCa IC chip. When the phone is presented within ten centimetres of the QUICPAY RFID (Radio Frequency ID) reader, it will determine the balance stored on the customer’s chip, automatically deduct the fare and reset the chip’s balance. The QUICPay (“Quick and Useful IC Payment”) amount will then be billed to their existing credit card just like any other card purchase.
QUICPay can skip the authorisation process because it can instantly determine the balance that is available on the chip. The great thing about this system is its immediacy. How often have the seconds turned to minutes and the minutes multiplied while you waited for the shop assistant to move heaven and earth to finalise your card transaction? In contrast to this a QUICPay offline payment transaction can be done in seconds and what’s more, no signature is required.
While this trial is using only phones, it will be possible to embed the chip in a credit or other plastic cards in the future. If the experiment is successful JCB hopes to introduce the technology to convenience stores by 2006.
As far as we’re aware, there is no ‘keep the change’ option on QUICPay, so if the system becomes universal and moves us ever closer to a cashless society we’d better find another way of tipping.
Other mobile phone-based payment systems such as SimPay are being actively pursued. What isn’t clear is what transaction fees the handler will remove. Given it is all electronic, one would hope they would be negligible.