[LINK] M-Payment helps coin-starved Estonia
Mon, 30 Oct 2000 18:34:39 +1100 (EST)
"Ever been frustrated by a lack of pocket change when you need to feed a
parking meter? That could be a major problem here in the Baltic country of
Estonia, where most of the local cash - the Estonian crown - circulates in
the form of paper money. But Estonians have found a ready solution: they
use their mobile phones to pay for parking.
Using SMS (short message service) or WAP (Wireless Applications
Protocol), a driver punches in his car registration number and a parking
zone code. The parking charges are automatically billed to his mobile
phone account. On returning to his car, he simply dials a short code which
informs the system to stop tallying up charges - no need to pay for more
minutes than are actually used.
The technology, the first of its kind to be commercially available, was
introduced this summer by Eesti Mobiltelefon (Estonian Mobile Telephone),
which has helped turn this tiny country into a kind of laboratory for
innovative wireless technologies.
Tn Grnberg, the company's development and technology director,
demonstrated the system on his sleek Ericsson handset.
"We hope to see it everywhere, because it's really convenient," he said. He
added that negotiations are underway with "possible partners abroad," but
declined to give details or a timetable of when the service might be
introduced in other countries.
In the next phase of the project, to be launched next year, users will be
able to load "virtual cash" into an account, which can then be used via the
mobile phone to pay for items like soft drinks from vending machines,
ticket sales, or betting. This method of payment, Grnberg said, is
preferable to many users whose mobile phone bills are paid by their
Longer-term plans, he said, include use of Bluetooth technology for
"proximity-based" payment services. Under this scenario, for example, a
user could step onto a bus or train and be automatically billed for the fare.
"M-payment" has been quick to catch on in Estonia, which already has
one of the world's highest penetration rates for online banking - some 90
percent of domestic banking transactions are conducted over the Internet,
said Linnar Viik, IT adviser to Estonia's prime minister.
Estonia's 1.4 million people have seized on technology as the way to
succeed, after declaring independence from the Soviet Union, said
"Maybe we understand that our only chance to get into the club is to
choose something and push it, and that choice is IT, communications, and
high-tech. ... We are quite small and can move fast - it's not really difficult
to turn the ship around."
Estonian Mobile Telephone is on the Web at http://www.emt.ee/."
I sometimes wonder how long before us Melbournians will have the, er,
"option" of putting parking etc on our e-Tags accounts?