Soon, mobile phones could be used as 'surrogate debit cards'

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London, Apr 8 : Your mobile phone lets you stay connected to your loved ones, take snapshots wherever you want, listen to your favourite tunes and even surf the Internet. Now, the same wireless is going to offer you more by getting transformed into a debit card.

Hailed as a key development since the advent of the credit card, mobiles could soon be used as "surrogate debit cards" if a Dutch scheme is brought to the UK.

The Netherlands project allows customers to link their mobile phones directly to their bank accounts and use the phones at supermarket checkouts as if they were Switch or Maestro cards.

The system, developed by a supermarket, a bank, a phone network and the IT consultancy Logica, will go on display on April 9 at a Scottish Financial Enterprise (SFE) briefing in Edinburgh, held to discuss ways to roll out new technology to British banking customers.

Gavin Jones, delivery director in Logica's financial-services department in Edinburgh, said mobile phones could be linked directly to bank accounts or "topped-up" with money and used as pay-as-you-go smart cards.

"It's a revolution in terms of doing things with your mobile phone. I believe the customer demand exists in the UK for these kinds of services. The next step would be to find partners - such as shops and banks - to take this project forward," The Scotsman quoted him, as saying.

The device works with near-field communication - a technology that uses high- frequency radio waves to transfer information between electronic devices such as the phone and the card reader.

In the pilot, the mobile phone came with a built-in chip, containing the customer's bank details. The phones were adapted to incorporate a chip loaded with a debit card function that replicated the existing chip and Pin payment process.

But once the phones are available for sale, the consumer will need to download an application which links to a chip with encrypted bank details.

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