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The Almighty Buck

Sony's Cashless Smart Card Catching on in Japan 213

Posted by timothy
from the are-they-tradeable dept.
Spasemunki writes "The New York Times reports here on the success in Japan of an RF-based, cash replacement smart card developed by Sony. Used primarily by Japan's largest railway company, the cards carry a declining cash balance (no link to your credit card or bank account if it is lost or stolen), and conducts transactions at railway turnstiles in 1/5 of a second. Mass transit remains one of the big areas for many folks where you just can't live without cash- this would be a big improvement over digging in the couch for exact change ... "
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Sony's Cashless Smart Card Catching on in Japan

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  • Nice... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 15, 2003 @09:40AM (#5518922)

    Who needs photocopiers and engravers, when you can just "hack" some funds!
  • by Eese (647951) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @09:42AM (#5518933)
    While the money in this instance is anonymous, is anyone else reminded of those scanners from Minority Report that just "pinged" you as you walk by? I wouldn't like the idea of being forced to walk around carrying RF-emitting devices. If I wanted to, by all means, but I would rather this not become the norm, personally.
  • by brejc8 (223089) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @09:43AM (#5518937) Homepage Journal
    Finally people are making systems which they know might be cracked. After doing power analasis of processors I would not be happy if my bank said that the data is fully secure and no one can break into it. I would prefair if they said well people could break into it but they will only be able to steal x ammount before the card is canceled.
  • by bushboy (112290) <lttc@lefthandedmonkeys.org> on Saturday March 15, 2003 @09:44AM (#5518939) Homepage
    There's so many cool ideas that only Japan seems to have.

    I think this is one of them.

    Japanese citizens seem almost Zenlike in thier capacity to accept such civilised ideas.

    By comparison, in much of the rest of the world, this idea won't work simply because of the cultural background.
  • Great idea! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xenna (37238) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @09:45AM (#5518941)
    Now the banks can actually collect interest on the money in your pocket!

    If you lose your card and noone else finds it, the money goes to the banks as well!

    A win-win situation!

    X.
  • The Wallet Problem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dmorin (25609) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .niromd.> on Saturday March 15, 2003 @09:48AM (#5518951) Homepage Journal
    Smart cards are at least partly failing to catch on because of what I call "the wallet problem". Fine, you have a cash card for the subway. and one for the parking lot. And one for the office cafeteria. And the mall. Pretty soon you have a wallet of nothing but cash cards, each carrying $20 here or $50 there and none of them interchangeable.

    Visa and MC work because there's a single standard with multiple providers. Everybody takes Visa, nobody says "Oh, whoa, hey, we don't take the GM Visa, we only take the Wachovia Visa." So there's a massive hurdle to overcome for cash cards to really catch on. You want to make a generic cash card that people can use anywhere. But if you do that, then naturally you will want to fill it with more cash...which, in turn, makes it more risky to lose it, which makes less people want to sponsor them. Note that I don't say "to use them", because I think that people would put $100+ on a cash card and want to use it to go shopping (think of the new "gift cards" that people get for the mall). I said sponsor because once you get beyond a certain amount, if somebody loses it, they're gonna scream and say "I don't care about your policy, I demand you get me my money back."

    Know what I mean? What's a good solution that that problem? I suppose the solution is for Visa to sponsor a cash card, which seems like it would be very similar to the whole "debit card" concept that caught on very rapidly once the banks were able to say "Use your checking account money just like Visa."

  • by tekunokurato (531385) <jackphelps@gmail.com> on Saturday March 15, 2003 @09:52AM (#5518963) Homepage
    No. If there's no link to your accounts, there needn't be a link to you. When you buy a metrocard in NY (as a previous poster discussed) do you have to input your ID? not at all. Sure, you may pay for it with a credit card, but if your goal is not to carry cash, how else would you pay for anything anyway?
  • I want one (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Openadvocate (573093) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @09:52AM (#5518966)
    I want to place one in one of my windows. Outside there's a crowded sidewalk. I am sure noone would mind me getting one cent for every person walking by, as I am sure they never will discover it.
  • by La Temperanza (638530) <<temperanza> <at> <softhome.net>> on Saturday March 15, 2003 @09:53AM (#5518968)
    Hey, isn't that in the Book of Revelation?

    16: He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead,
    17: so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name.

    Originally I thought this sounded eerily similar to fingerprints and retinal scanners. But I'm just an occultist quack, and an OT one at that. :p
  • by LegendLength (231553) <legendlength AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday March 15, 2003 @10:05AM (#5519008)
    The solution is to have a card which can 'contain' cash cards from different providers. Then you could have a single card which holds data for all of your cash cards, and you wouldn't be locked in to a single supplier like Visa/MC.

    Governments really should get off their asses and implmement these, free of charge. How can they pretend that this type of money isn't a basic service that should be handled by them?
  • This issue was raised re: the Octopus card in Hong Kong as well. What prevents people from just wandering around lifting 'cash' out of people's contactless cards is that ultimately they have to get the real cash from the entity that collected it. Sure, you can go around trying to take money from people's Suica cards, but then you're going to approach JR East and ask them to give you real money? All you have is a bunch of long encrypted strings.
  • Speedpass anyone? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jpellino (202698) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @10:20AM (#5519055)
    Just got my speedpass timex watch - no more key tag - I'll prolly give that to my wife - the windw tage never did work on my dodge neon's back window, so that was out.

    I like the idea of speedpass being used at gas and other small place - mcd's, dunkin's - for the most part if I lose it, the money is safe (so they say so far) and what's the worst someone could do - buy a tank of gas, drive for a day then buy another - i'd figure it out by then.

    Plus anyone who has a debit card and uses it for purchases AND atms - it wears out about halfway thru it's expiration date from people treating it like a sanding tool at the checkout.

    Negroponte told a neat story a few years back - about the ski pass rfid's in switzerland - he went to pull out cash at a small store to buy some chocolate, and was fishing for change and the cashier saw his spent ski pass - he offered to take it for the payment - nn asked why, and the guy said they're worth 5 francs deposit when you turn them back - when pressed, the cashier said he piles them up and pays the bread vendor - the bread vendor piles up piles from the stores he delivers to , one of which was the ski resort, and turns them in en masse!

    it was nn's arguement for how micropayments are easier than we think. speedpass isn't exactly micropayments given the price of petrol, but it's close, easy, cheaper for the shop (debit vs credit) and certainly easy for me.
  • by GregWebb (26123) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @10:31AM (#5519083)
    When Mondex was trialled a while back in the UK, it didn't take long for the encryption to be hacked and people to get essentially free money added to their cards on demand.

    If this sort of card system is to be long-term practical, it can't be the wallet. It has to be the key that opens the remote safe, or someone will eventually find out how to put money into the wallet without putting the corresponding bills into the account that backs it up. Yes, I know that slows it down but it's necessary.
  • by whovian (107062) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @04:29PM (#5520593)
    Probably not too expensive of an option would be to put flash memory inside to store the value and embed a solar cell on the card to read the memory and then display the value.

Money can't buy happiness, but it can make you awfully comfortable while you're being miserable. -- C.B. Luce

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