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Monday, November 20, 2006
Sony, NXP Set Standard in Wireless Cards

Sony and NXP Semiconductors said on Monday they will join forces to create a global standard for contactless chip cards such as electronic wallets in mobile phones.

The two companies said they will create a joint venture, to be established by the middle of next year, that will plan, develop, produce and market a secure chip that will include both companies' contactless chip card formats: Mifare and FeliCa.

Mifare -- developed by NXP which was formerly known as Philips Semiconductors -- and Felica are two of the most widely used formats in contactless chips that are embedded in access cards for buildings and public transport as well as mobile phones which double as electronic wallets.

Other contactless card operating systems and applications will also be supported by the joint venture. Mifare and FeliCa already share the same short-range wireless infrastructure technology called Near Field Communication (NFC).

In Japan, 12.6 million consumers already have their credit card embedded in a chip in their mobile phone, and they can pay for purchases by swiping their phone over a wireless reader.

"By combining this secure chip with an NFC chip, a universal contactless IC (integrated circuit) platform can be created for mobile phones," both companies said in a statement.

As a result, mobile device manufacturers and service providers around the world will be able to design products and services which are compatible with the different contactless chip protocols and operating systems already in use.

"Consumers will be able to enjoy multiple applications such as payment and transport ticketing from various service providers on one device," the firms said.

As a future scenario, the companies paint a picture in which consumers touch a terminal with a mobile phone and get access to a wide range of services.

Mifare claims to be the most widely installed contactless smart card technology in the world with about 1.2 billion smart card chips and more than seven million reader modules sold. Current shipments of FeliCa chips stand at 170 million units and of these 30 million are mobile FeliCa chips for use in mobile phones in Japan.

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