Electronic cash will take off in earnest in 2001 - that's just four years away - according to a report from analysts Ovum. Five years after that more than $8.6 billion will be in circulation.
PCs and phones will be competing as money-transfer media by then, putting the high street automatic tellers on to the scrapheap.
More than 300 banks will provide full-time Web banking but there's a lot of competition. Card companies like Visa and MasterCard, telephone companies, IT firms like Microsoft, IBM and Sun, even transport companies and post offices, will all get in on the act.
But they will have to agree on a common infrastructure, integrating several technologies, before users and merchants accept e-cash as a viable alternative to notes and coins, says Duncan Brown, lead author of the u1,195 report Electronic Cash: opportunities for banks and IT suppliers.
Brown says security is fundamental but need not be infallible so long as e-cash is backed by service providers. "Encryption technologies used to protect e-cash transactions are based on unproved acts of faith," he warns. Details are at www.ovum.com
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