Users can now pay for Internet service using smartcards, with a system being piloted in Europe by a group which includes Mondex and Unisource.
The electronic commerce trial begins next month in the UK and The Netherlands. The initial participants include European telecoms operator Unisource, payment smartcard supplier Mondex, NatWest Bank, Time Out magazine and Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam.
Time Out will sell information on restaurants and entertainment on a specially designed Web site. Payments are made by inserting a Mondex card into an Apple Newton MessagePad 2000 handheld computer running a Web browser and the Unisource shopping and banking protocols.
Employees of Apple, Mondex and Unisource will use a GSM mobile phone linked to their Apple Newtons to dial the Internet and access the magazine's site. Once there, they will use their Mondex card to pay Time Out for specified information. When payment is made, the information requested will be transmitted to the handheld device. Participants will also be able to load their Mondex cards with electronic cash by accessing their bank account through the Internet.
Julian Wilson, Director of Service Development at Unisource, who initiated the pilot, said it is based on a network of "virtual cash registers and ATMs". People can pay for goods anonymously, in cash, instead of using credit cards. "This enables Net access devices to pay for information services using any smartcard payment in a currency of their buyer's choice, without either party knowing the other," explained Wilson.
Unisource is aiming the service at companies selling information rather than goods over the Internet.
Also involved is MultiMedia Mapping, which provides interactive maps on the Web. Nokia's Communicator 9000 GSM phone and personal organiser can also be used in the trial.
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