Japanese e-money system gears up for expansion

BitWallet, a joint venture company headed by Sony and NTT DoCoMo, which operates a fledgling electronic money system in Japan,...

BitWallet, a joint venture company headed by Sony and NTT DoCoMo, which operates a fledgling electronic money system in Japan, has increased its capitalisation by more than 80% as it prepares to expand its service to new retailers and add new functions.

The company has issued an additional ¥5.9bn (US$49.1 million) in shares in third-round financing at the end of January to boost its Edy e-money service.

The service, which started commercial operations in 2001, is available through 2,100 shops and 650,000 cards have been issued although use is still low. BitWallet hoped to see 25,000 retailers accepting the card and 8.5 million cards in circulation by the end of March 2004.

A big step towards that goal will come later this year when NTT DoCoMo begins embedding the Edy function into its mobile phones, so that customers can pay for goods by holding their phones up to Edy payment points. Credit card companies and banks, which make up a large portion of BitWallet shareholders, are also understood to be considering adoption of the technology.

Edy cards, which are based on Sony's Felica contactless smartcard technology, can also double as corporate ID badges and ID cards.

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