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Mobile Phone Companies to Demonstrate UWB Payments

NTT Docomo, Sony and NXP plan to show how ultra-wideband technology can enable consumers to make payments via smartphone, based on their location, without having to tap the phone or remove it from a pocket or purse.
By Claire Swedberg
Jan 22, 2020

While mobile phone payment solutions rely on the tap of a Near Field Communication (NFC)-enabled handset, many technology companies are preparing for the release of new Internet of Things (IoT) solutions in which ultra-wideband (UWB) technology enables payments without the requirement of tapping a smartphone.

Japanese mobile phone operators NTT Docomo and Sony Corp. will demonstrate a new UWB system for phone customers using a network that enables Touchless Mobile Wallet payments, leveraging NXP integrated circuits. With the UWB system in place, payments can be accomplished based on a phone's precise location and interaction with another UWD device (such as a point-of-sale device), even if the phone never leaves a shopper's pocket.

The demonstration will be provided with the help of Sony Corp.'s Sony Imaging Products and Solutions subsidiary, whose phones could come with the built-in UWB chip. The demo will take place at Docomo Open House 2020, to be held in Tokyo on Jan. 23-24.

NTT Docomo and NXP intend to offer UWB solutions in Japan, not only for payment applications but also for precise location-based advertising, access control and other IoT use cases. The NXP chipset in use is the SR100T, which was released in September 2019 and includes a Secure Element (SE), as well as NFC and UWB functionality. NXP has been working with NTT Docomo and Sony for several years on NFC and now UWB solutions, according to Charles Dachs, NXP's VP and general manager of secure embedded transactions.

UWB transmissions from and to mobile phones enable companies to provide IoT services that demand location granularity beyond what Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), GPS, Wi-Fi or other technologies can accomplish. UWB-enabled mobile phones can be located within very specific areas, for instance, thereby enabling payment transactions based on an individual's location. The ST100T can provide the location data required to identify when a specific person intends to enter a car or building door, as well as confirm that he or is approved and then unlock the door.

UWB transmits a signal across a wide band from 6 to 9 GHz and relies on angle-of-arrival (AoA) technology. That enables users to locate a device within a few centimeters between two UWB devices, or to track the location of a specific UWB device, such as a phone, with fixed anchors receiving the device's transmission.

In a payment application, the technology could enable a transaction at the point of sale, Dachs explains, without requiring a user to remove a wallet or mobile phone from a pocket or purse. Instead, UWB solutions for payment applications can identify a customer standing in front of a payment device, and thereby accomplish the transaction hands-free. With the demonstration, Dachs says, Docomo intends to showcase the versatility of UWB's 360-degree positioning, its location accuracy of a few centimeters, and its spatial-context awareness that can be purpose-built for personalized advertising and marketing.

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