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French NFC Payment Trial Kicks Off

In the city of Caen, retailers are testing a payments system using mobile phones equipped with near field communication RFID tags.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Oct 21, 2005For the next six months, 200 residents of Caen, a city of 150,000 located in northwestern France, will have a new way to pay for groceries and other goods, thanks to a field trial of RFID-enabled cell phones.

Participants in the trial, which began this week, can now use Samsung D500 mobile phones to pay for goods at a Monoprix supermarket, a Galeries Lafayette department store and nine other retail locations in Caen. The retailers are equipped with RFID-enabled payment terminals provided by point-of-sale terminal manufacturer Ingenico.

An NFC-enabled phone reads an RFID tag embedded in a poster to download information.
To make a purchase, a customer tells the cashier he or she would like to pay using the phone. The cashier readies the register to receive payment info via RFID, then the customer simply waves the phone in front of the terminal.

Orange, the mobile telecommunications arm of European telecom network operator France Telecom, provided the RFID-enabled phones. Orange worked with Cofinoga, the consumer credit division of Groupe LaSer, and Groupe Galeries Lafayette—parent company of Groupe LaSer, Monoprix and Galeries Lafayette—to link the testers' Cofinoga accounts to the phones. The 200 testers, all of whom had preexisting Orange mobile phone subscriptions and Coginoga accounts, were selected by Orange and Groupe LaSer.

Testers can pay for parking at select Park Vinci lots throughout Caen, and more commercial outlets may join the trial during the coming months. France Telecom, Orange, chipmaker Royal Philips Electronics and handset manufacturer Samsung all worked with Groupe Galeries Lafayette to develop the trial.

"Simply put," says Christophe Duverne, vice president at Philips Semiconductors, "Groupe LaSer asked Orange to put the content of a mag stripe credit card into a cell phone." Philips provided Samsung with the technology needed to enable the D500 phones to transmit payment information securely over radio frequency, using near field communications (NFC).

This technology, developed by Philips and Sony, is a standard way for mobile electronic devices to communicate wirelessly with other such equipment.

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