Sony's phone payment chip shipments hit 200 million

Chip used in smart cards and payment-capable phones

TOKYO - Shipments of smart cards and cell phones containing Sony Corp.'s Felica RFID chip have hit 200 million, the company said Thursday.

In the last five years the chip has become a de facto standard in Japan and cards containing it are used by millions of people everyday to make railway journeys and e-money purchases in convenience stores. In 2004 the chip started getting integrated in cell phones and today, through Felica, owners of those cell phones can make credit card purchases in stores.

The next big jump will come later this month when Tokyo's subway and private railway and bus operators launch a common travel card based on the Felica platform. The Pasmo system will be interoperable with East Japan Railway Co.'s (JR East's) Suica card, allowing the 35 million people who live in the Tokyo Metropolitan area the ability to travel on more than 100 railway lines and hundreds of bus routes with a single card.

Felica is an RFID technology and doesn't need a battery to operate. The touch-and-go payments it supports work over a distance of a few centimeters and take 0.1 seconds for each to complete.

In addition to Japan, the technology provides the base for the Octopus subway card in Hong Kong, which has also morphed into an e-money payment system, and the ez-Link transport card in Singapore. Felica is also used in Shenzhen's TransCard, India's TravelCard and Bangkok's Metro Card but has yet to break significantly into European or North American markets.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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