WAP happy Swedes bank over a mobile

Pervasive computing is definitely IBM's buzz-technology of the moment and yesterday's announcement that the company has WAP-enabled a major Swedish bank certainly won't do the Big Blue's funky new image any harm.

A Swedish bank is offering customers a new service that will let them retrieve account information, transfer money, buy and sell stocks or pay bills using a WAP enabled phone.

Handelsbanken is claiming a first with the service which it has built in association with IBM which supplied all the necessary application development tools and back-end systems.

Customers will be given Nokia and Ericsson handsets during the test phase of the service which will allow them to receive general and personalised stock market information. Lars O Gronstedt, executive vice president of Handelsbanken said "As advances in technology and wireless communications are extending the 'net to a new generation of portable devices, we want to deliver the kind of services that will allow our customers to make their life easier and more productive."

David McKenzie, director of IBM's Pervasive Computing division for Europe explained the importance of the technology: "Pervasive computing promotes access to the Internet using devices other than a PC, for example set-top boxes, cars, televisions, and of course mobile devices. These mobile devices will use the WAP standard. We expect WAP-based services to be first and fastest growing area of pervasive computing, especially in Europe, where there is already a widespread acceptance of mobile phones and a consistent standard in the shape of GSM."

McKenzie said demand for WAP services was particularly high in Scandinavia where 60 percent of the population own mobile phones. Uptake of WAP services in the UK was noticeably slow according to McKenzie who suggested the British lacked the "mobile culture" Scandinavian countries enjoy. He predicted UK banks could offer similar services sometime next year. "For banks already using Internet banking, it isn't a huge step to offer banking by TV or mobile handset," he said.

IBM quotes independent analysts who estimate that the number of wireless subscribers around the world will pass the one billion mark by 2003.

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