Business | Technology

Paying with plastic will soon be a thing of the past

People will be able to pay for their purchases using mobile phones

  • By Derek Baldwin, Business Features Reporter
  • Published: 00:00 March 5, 2011
  • Gulf News

Welcome to the future
  • Image Credit: Bloomberg
  • New NFC technology is similar to Bluetooth and transmits data via wireless technology within short distances automatically. It emulates credit cards by storing financial data on a mobile phone’s SIM card.

Dubai: Much of what we do in the UAE depends on having the trusted and convenient plastic cards to swipe our way to purchasing new clothes, taking in a movie or travelling on the Metro. But those shiny credit cards, bank-account cards, and RTA Nol Metro cards may soon be a thing of the past due to new technology that will change the way we pay for things.

Near Field Communication — or NFC, as it more commonly known — is set to sweep the UAE as part of an unfolding new programme by etisalat to help mobile phone subscribers pay for virtually everything with their handheld devices and thus making the need for plastic cards obsolete, Gulf News has learnt.

New NFC technology is similar to Bluetooth and transmits data via wireless technology within short distances automatically. It emulates credit cards by storing financial data on a mobile phone's SIM card.

Rashed Majed Al Abbar, director of mobile commerce at etisalat, said the future of mobile payment is here and now. "You just tap your mobile phone on the terminal and it automatically deducts the purchase," said Al Abbar.

When taking the Dubai Metro, for example, an NFC-equipped phone enabled by etisalat will allow phone subscribers to simply tap their mobile phone on station turnstiles to deduct the fare. In short, no Nol cards needed.

"You will have your own Nol card right on your phone, it will be a virtual Nol card on your mobile," Al Abbar said.

Convenience

Mobile phone payments will reduce delays in queuing up in Metro stations because a mobile phone payment is quicker and hassle-free. Under etisalat's pilot programme to install NFC technology across Dubai, Metro users could be using their mobile phones to pay for access as early as the end of this year, he said.

"We've been working with Emirates-NBD to enable these phones," Al Abbar added. "Almost all [phone manufacturers] have confirmed that they're going to have NFC phones."

Al Abbar was referring to reports that major mobile phone manufacturers such as Apple, BlackBerry, Nokia and Samsung are installing NFC technology in their next-generation devices, some of which are already being heavily used in other regions.

Al Abbar said etisalat has worked with Nokia and Samsung to bring new NFC-enabled mobile phones to Dubai where Emirates-NBD staff has been testing the new technology at locations across the emirate as part of the pilot programme before the rollout.

"We have 110 merchandisers and shops that now use NFC contactless terminals," Al Abbar said, adding that the companies have installed what's called Visa payWave system at more than 400 of their outlets.

Some of the more well-known companies to sign up include Costa, Reel Cinemas and Cinnabon. Samsung has provided its Samsung Star NFC phone to etisalat for testing that is now underway, but the phone has not yet been made commercially available in the UAE, Al Abbar said.

"We're in final testing with the new additional handset," he said. "As an operator we have a strong role to play to connect all of these users together." The opportunities for the NFC technology provided by etisalat will be full of potential, Al Abbar said, to give users a fuller experience, especially when they are on the hunt for the latest fashions, entertainment or technology.

Loyalty programmes

Companies will use NFC to provide loyalty programmes that recognise when a shopper enters the store. They will then be instantly notified on their phone of sales or latest developments on items for which they were previously interested or purchased.

Electronic posters set up in malls will be equipped with NFC transmitters to share the content of the advertised medium with shoppers as they pass. "If you tap on a movie poster, it will automatically send you a trailer of that poster," he said. "It should make things much easier."

The UAE's du telecom is also working on NFC technology and has reportedly conducted pilot testing. But du officials declined to comment on plans when asked by Gulf News.

Amid predictions that mobile payments will approach $1 trillion in sales by 2014, a new survey of mobile phone owners around the globe suggests more people than ever want to use their devices to pay for everyday items.

Last month, the tech services company Accenture released findings that noted 45 per cent of "the most active device users would welcome the opportunity to pay for goods and services using their mobile phone".

Accenture surveyed respondents from 11 countries and discovered that "consumers in Asia were the most enthusiastic about mobile commerce. Overall, 69 per cent of survey respondents in Asia indicated they favoured using mobile phones for most payments."

By contrast, only 26 per cent of US and European respondents said they would use mobile phones for mobile payments. In Asia, companies are utilising NFC technology to make it easier for consumers to pay by phone, said Accenture.

"In Asia, 38 per cent of consumers surveyed had scanned a product's barcode while shopping to get additional information; 36 per cent had displayed a ‘digital ticket' for admission to an event or to board a flight; and 31 per cent had purchased an item or received a coupon from a smart poster containing an electronic rag or brochure," Accenture said in a news release.

Asked which companies would play the most significant role in NFC technologies, Accenture said that 59 per cent of respondents said credit card companies should be at the forefront followed by wireless operators, retailers, software companies and smartphone manufacturers.

Handset payments could take off

Amid predictions that mobile payments will approach $1 trillion (Dh3.67 trillion) in sales by 2014, a new survey of mobile phone owners around the globe suggests more people than ever want to use their devices to pay for everyday items.

Last month, the tech services company Accenture released findings that noted 45 per cent of "the most active device users would welcome the opportunity to pay for goods and services using their mobile phone".

Accenture surveyed respondents from 11 countries and discovered that "consumers in Asia were the most enthusiastic about mobile commerce. Overall, 69 per cent of survey respondents in Asia indicated they favoured using mobile phones for most payments."

By contrast, only 26 per cent of US and European respondents said they would use mobile phones for mobile payments. In Asia, companies are utilising NFC technology to make it easier for consumers to pay by phone, said Accenture.

"In Asia, 38 per cent of consumers surveyed had scanned a product's barcode while shopping to get additional information; 36 per cent had displayed a ‘digital ticket' for admission to an event or to board a flight; and 31 per cent had purchased an item or received a coupon from a smart poster containing an electronic rag or brochure," Accenture said in a news release.

Asked which companies would play the most significant role in NFC technologies, Accenture said that 59 per cent of respondents said credit card companies should be at the forefront followed by wireless operators, retailers, software companies and smartphone manufacturers.

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