MobiWallet, the product demoed by Jton Systems at DEMO China, promises to combine cell phone SIM cards with a refillable RFID debit payment system to handle micro-payment transactions like paying for public transportation or buying a cup of coffee. While micro-payments using a cell phone have been done in other ways tied to cell phone bills and item specific cell phone numbers, this looks a little more practical. On the administration side of the equation, you configure the minimum amount you want to keep available on the card, as well as the refill amount if the balance drops below the minimum. The phone periodically compares the RFID balance against the minimum amount and automatically negotiates the refill transaction in the background, so you are never left with a low balance. The RFID stores the information and briefly wakes up when it encounters a payment interface, debits the money from the balance and communicates the change back to the MobiWallet server. For handling things like subway payments in Beijing, this seems like a no-brainer, as there are already card based solutions doing something similar. This eliminates the card and ties it to the phone that almost everyone in the city is carrying. The hurdle is getting China Mobile and China Unicom to sign on to replacing existing SIM cards with the RFID integrated cards.
In the U.S. carrier adoption is likely a bigger hurdle, as the carriers tend to shy away from adding things that might actually be useful to their customers and there’s no existing infrastructure of working RFID transaction systems. Long term, having a way to dump my Starbucks card, Jamba Juice Card, and the 20 other cards in my wallet, in favor of something connected to the one thing I never leave home without only makes sense.
You can hear an interview with Steve Edelson of Jton Systems on The Chris Pirillo Show.
The photo above is the interface showing the balance remaining for various accounts on the RFID. Below shows that the RFID is the same as what is currently going into wallet card style payment systems with a SIM integrated.