Near Field Technology is trialled for payment in shops

By Dan Whitworth
Newsbeat technology reporter

  • Published

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.

'Very secure'

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.

System trials

"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."

Image source, bbc
Image caption,
Chia Fuh says he would be worried about accidentally buying things

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.

Chia Fuh, 25 and from Hackney in London, said: "I think it would be quite convenient. But if you lost your phone there'd have to be some kind of security in place to prevent theft.

"And what's the range of the device? Could you accidentally pay for something you didn't want? I think things like that would definitely have to be considered."

Thirty-one-year-old Michael Thomas from Liverpool agrees: "I think as long as the security is good on it, stopping any thefts and whatever else, it'd be a good idea.

"It's like carrying your wallet round isn't it? All your credit cards are in that, so you'd just have to take extra special care of your mobile."

However, 22-year-old Vicky Brown from Hull isn't convinced: "If I lost my phone I think it would be a bit of a problem because you'd be using it every day.

"So that would definitely have to be considered. It wouldn't appeal to me."