The payment network called Edy that was pioneered by Sony in Japan and later reorganized in the independent company called Bitwallet is making great strides. The network enables cardholders to pay for small dollar value transactions at merchant locations via a contactless chip. The user waves the Edy card–containing a contactless Felica chip from Sony–near a merchant terminal to conduct the transaction.
Mobile phone leader, NTT DoCoMo, announced that new Edy-compatible mobile handsets would be available in the coming months. These new handsets will contain a Felica chip to enable merchant payments to be made by holding the mobile phone near the Edy merchant terminal. According to an article in ComputerWorld Hong Kong, NTT DoCoMo is also considering the inclusion of the SUICA contactless transit fare collection technology into the handsets. SUICA, also using the Felica contactless technology, is used by more than 6 million East Japan Railway commuters in Tokyo.
Additionally, as reported last week by ContactlessNews, Bitwallet announced more than US$50 million in new capitalization to further expand its network reach. The new money comes from the sale of additional shares to four new consortium members companies–Fuji Electric, DC Card, A Plus, and Central Finance. These four join the previous 25 consortium members that include Sony, NTT DoCoMo, KDDI, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking, Toyota Motor, and Fujitsu.
Bitwallet’s new capital should help to extend the system from the estimated 2000 current merchant locations (more than 50% of these are locations in the AM/PM convenience store chain) and 650,000 cardholders. The company’s initial target was 23,000 merchants and 8.5 million cardholders by March 2004. While this goal may still be extremely difficult to attain, the capital infusion and exciting advancements such as the DoCoMo handset application should help immensely.