At the beginning of 2001 Suica IC card started to work in Japan, it is an e-money card based on IC technology exploited by JR (Japan Railways). At the beginning it was used only to pay train travles, but nowadays you can use it in many traditional shops, convenience stores and even vending machines. From some months ago Suica is compatible with other IC cards (PASMO is the name of one of them), right now in Japan there are around 20 million users who have the “same type” of electronic wallet. That’s huge! That mass helps a lot to expand it through new businesses and start becoming really useful for everyone, blahblahblah… next you can see a video showing how I use my Suica to pay a train travel:
Look how fast people enters, payment with IC cards is very fast and allows a high flux of people entering and exiting from train stations. You just have to approach your wallet to pay.
The same thing you saw in the video you can do it with a mobile phone, just put your mobile phone next to the reader and you pay. IC Cards inside mobile phones are already being used by millions of Japanese.
Paying in a supermarket just approaching your mobile phone.
For example, today I tried to live without “real money”. In the morning I used the train and the bus, I paid both with my IC card. At lunch I had to pay with “real money” in a restaurant :(. Then I bought some snacks in a convenience store with the IC card, also got a drink from a vending machine with the IC card. When I went back home I payed everything at the supermarket just approaching my wallet to the reader. Except the restaurant, everything was electronic money!
The future is a combination of electronic wallet, credit card and mobile phone. Something similar is what Docomo is trying to do right now with his latest technologies. Some of the things that you can already do (or will be able to in the short term) are: bank transfers, buying with your mobile phone without pain, you can pay something you found on the Internet with your laptop just approaching your mobile to the computer (Many new Japanese laptops have an IC reader by default), you can transfer money to other mobile phone, buy/sell stocks, use your phone as a “normal” credit card, pay plane tickets using your phone in the airport… Here is the picture that explains it as Docomo sees the future:
IC reader in a laptop.
Suica IC reader in a shop.
And this is the security system:
That little black thing is “the key”. If the key is farther away than two meters from phone, then it blocks. For example, if someone steals your handbag with your mobile phone inside, if you have the black little key in your pocket the robber won’t be able to use the phone, it will be blocked.
I don’t know you, but for me “analog”|”real” money makes no sense in the world we live nowadays. Can you imagine living without coins in your pocket? I hate coins!