The system is simple, said Mami Ihara of NTT DoCoMo's I-mode strategy department.
"You go up to the ATM and select whether you want to use a bank card or your mobile phone," she said. The customer selects the mobile phone option on the screen. "Then, you can send your bank account number to the ATM by lining it up with the sensor."
A Java applet running in the phone contacts the ATM via a small infrared transmitter in the top of the handset. It can beam across the account details to the ATM, after which it is business as normal. Users still need to enter their PIN, however, for security reasons.
While using a mobile phone instead of a card will not save much time, it will mean that users will be able to carry one less card in their wallet or purse.
Users will also be able to programme in details of account transfers, such as a payment into a friend's bank account, before they get to the ATM and then beam across all the details to the ATM when at the bank.
DoCoMo's plans to launch the system sometime next year. However, DoCoMo is not the only company working on mobile phone-enabled banking.
Two projects based on infrared technology and using the new Infrared for Financial Messaging (IrFM) standard have been launched in South Korea. One is a collaboration between credit card issuer Visa International Asia-Pacific and wireless carrier SK Telecom while the second is a venture between Harex InfoTech and wireless carriers KT Freetel and LG Telecom, the latter of which is already in commercial service.
In Hong Kong, Nokia has integrated a contactless smart card for the Octopus system into one of its handsets. Originally covering access to public transport, the system has now been expanded to act as an e-money system in some convenience stores, fast food restaurants, vending machines and cafes.