Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Encountering Hong Kong's Octopus

I admit I was skeptical about near field communications. I ignored comments from Intel wireless USB exec Jeff Ravencraft who said contactless cards enable a wonderfully intuitive usage model. Colleagues at EE Times said NFC had an uphill battle. And I thumbed my nose at a fledgling trial in the Bay Area.

But my experience seeing in action the Octopus card in Hong Kong has modified my views. Run by the company of the same name, the service uses Sony's FeliCa NFC technology and is widely popular here. It even comes embedded in watches, stuffed toys and key chains as well as the popular cards that can all be purchased at the local subway station (see picture, right).

It may never take off in America, but I understand it is doing well in Japan, great in Hong Kong where I am presently visiting and likely to spread elsewhere based on this beachhead.

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