A consumer electronics exhibition in Melbourne will be introducing a cross-platform mobile identification system that claims to be supported by more than one billion handsets worldwide.
Upon purchase of their tickets, visitors to the DigitaLife2004 exhibition in November can choose to carry their event tickets, ShowCash debit cards and loyalty cards in their phones for the duration of the exhibition.
Tickets will be issued as a numerical SMS message while an individual's debit and loyalty cards will be sent as "business cards" and saved as address book entries. These can then be scanned using a high-resolution digital camera and decoded using specially designed software.
Start corporation CEO Michael Mak said they have spoken with several companies interested on the proprietary Number-code (or N-code). He said cinema ticketing providers were apprehensive about taking up the barcode system, claiming it "only works 90 percent of the time".
Mak said there is a big difference between the barcode system used in concerts and the N-code: unlike its picture-message counterparts, the technology is "handset-independent and carrier-independent, and is supported by 100 percent of message-enabled handsets in the market (including GSM, CDMA, 3G, i-Mode and Blackberry)."
Mak added that since numbers are language-independent, the system is internationally compatible. "The technology can be used to securely replace tickets, vouchers, payment cards, loyalty cards, travel passes, ID cards, bill-payment barcodes or any other types of physical ID tokens. It is the beginning to the Age of the 'Paperless Wallet'."
Mak believes the technology is the answer to the queuing problem of last minute ticket buyers since people can get their tickets through their phones. The company is expecting to conduct an initial trial in three to four months at an as-yet undisclosed event in Australia.
Mak said the number-based coding allows the user to store information in their address book. "Some people are worried they will accidentally delete an SMS. And if you are given loyalty cards as a message, there won't be enough space in your Inbox for it. By saving it to the address book, a user can carry even 20 loyalty cards in their mobile phones from major retailers in Australia."
"I wouldn't say we are competing because it's a different solution. The barcode system, however, can only be used for concerts because cinemas and football events need something more accurate," Mak said.
IDC senior analyst for mobile and wireless solutions, Warren Chaisatien suggests that companies use the popularity and ease of use of the SMS technology for speedy adaptation in Australia. He added that MMS should also be looked into as a future prospect.
"[Phone code] technology will fly depending on how it is taken to the next step. But there is a high likelihood of this being successful. The vast majority of SMS traffic today is peer to peer, but that is changing. What we are starting to see are premiums and content-based SMS," he said.
Chaisatien believes the one thing that will hold the technology back in Australia is security concerns.
"The main concern regarding the paperless wallet is security, and the second is the supply side. Vendors will have to develop a community that is big enough to support this digital wallet activity," he said.