Here's an interesting question: could we live in a world with no actual paper money? It may seem a revolutionary to us, but the Japanese not only have been doing it already it but it seems to be working quite well for them.
Today, for 15 million Japanese, paper money is a thing of the past, according to the Japan Research Institute. No longer solely used for online purchases, e-money, accessed via a smart card or mobile phone, has become a way of life for many consumers in Japan.
The e-money trend began there roughly four years ago as a service for busy, on-the-go train commuters. Today, specially equipped mobile phones and smart cards are used to purchase items from convenience stores, department stores, restaurants, newsstands, supermarkets, and other retailers. The Japan Research Institute estimated that by 2008 some 40 million Japanese, roughly one-third of the country, will be using electronic money.
Technologies such as FeliCa, from Sony, use integrated chips that enable devices to receive and emit electronic signals. These "contactless" or near-field communication (NFC) devices include mobile phones, transit cards, and prepaid e-money cards.
Japanese Economic Monthly reported last year that NTT DoCoMo, the country's leading mobile-communications company, had sold some 3.34 million handsets equipped with the FeliCa technology through April 2005. In 2005, the number of digital-money transactions more than doubled, averaging around 15.8 million each month, according to statistics from the two largest electronic-money providers in Japan. Some Japanese supermarkets have reported that up to 40 percent of all purchases now are made with e-cash.
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