Sony is collaborating with major Japanese banks and corporations to launch a new smart card-based electronic cash system for shopping on the high street and over the Internet.
Sony and its partners - NTT DoCoMo, Sakura Bank, Sakura Information Systems, Toyota, Denso, KDDI, Sanwa Bank, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, and the Japan Research Institute - will later this month establish a joint venture company capitalised at Y5 billion to market the new system. A full-scale roll out of the 'Edy' electronic system is anticipated in October 2001 once an infrastructural base of terminals and participating merchants has been established.
The Edy system uses a non-contact IC card developed by Sony under the name code-name FeliCa. Payments can be made by placing the Edy card near terminals which will be installed at retail outlets and personal computers.
The joint venture company - through which Sony will hold a 47% stake - will establish an infrastructure base of money depositing terminals and promote the widespread use of personal terminals with card reader/writer capabilities. The partners have set ambitious targets, calling for a user base of 30 million cards, 25,000 real outlets, 30,000 cyber outlets, 1 million vending machines and 15 million personal terminals within the next five years.
In advance of commercial roll-out, Sakura Bank will launch an experimental service for pilot users to shop and deposit money at participating convenience stores. An experimental service over the Internet is also under consideration.