Near Field Technology is trialled for payment in shops
Thousands of shops across the UK are getting ready for a roll-out of a new technology which could allow shoppers to use their mobiles to buy things.
It’s called Near Field Communication (NFC) technology and some of the biggest retailers on the high street think the idea could take off this summer.
One estimate suggests 40,000 businesses could be using it by the end of 2011.
The technology isn’t new but it’s never been tried on such a big scale before.
Orange and MasterCard are jointly launching a NFC-ready handset between April and June while competitors Visa and O2 are doing the same later this summer.
During that time period shoppers can expect to see an increase in contactless pay points in many shops.
As NFC-enabled handsets become more common and more shops are able to accept payment using the system, the companies behind it hope it will become more mainstream.
Mobile phone operators and manufacturers, banks and retailers are all investing millions of pounds to make the technology a success.
As far as they’re concerned the system will make shopping easier, quicker and more hassle free.
Edward Chandler from MasterCard says: “We believe from a consumer’s point of view it’s very simple, it’s very secure.
“It’s as secure as any credit or debit card is today and also what you can then add on to that.
“You can add on ticketing, you can add on coupons, so we believe it’s going to make consumers’ lives simpler and more rewarding.”
However, critics of the scheme say they’re worried that small businesses and shops in particular might lose out.
Kieren Hines is a mobile phone analyst: “There are a lot of things that need to be resolved in the industry about how this is going to be rolled out.
“In terms of security you’re almost certainly going to have to enter a pin when you make a transaction.
“In terms of who pays for this, obviously there’s a big investment from banks, a big investment from mobile operators.
“Inevitably some of that cost will go back to consumers.”
Trials of this system are already under way on a smaller scale with businesses like Pret A Manger, Boots, Tesco, McDonald’s, Little Chef and National Trust.
But expect a big push to take it into the mainstream this summer from the likes of Orange, O2, MasterCard and Visa.
It will mean more NFC-ready handsets being brought out onto the market and more pay points appearing in shops.
Ultimately though shoppers will decide if the idea is going to be a success or not depending on whether they like the idea.