Forgot your wallet? You'll need a better excuse than that for passing on the check. By next year, you'll be able to pay simply by swiping your cell phone a few inches from a cash register, with a new wireless standard called Near Field Communication.
An NFC chip in your phone will send your credit-card number -- stored on your phone or on the chip -- by way of short-distance radio waves.An electronic reader at the checkout will decode the number and ring up your purchase.
Unlike radio-frequency identification (RFID) and other existing contactless payment systems, NFC chips allow two-way information exchange by rolling an RF transmitter and reader into one five-millimeter package.That means the chip can also take in data, such as a receipt zapped to it by a cash register or a bus schedule from a tag embedded in a bus-stop sign.
You don't even have to buy a new phone. When it hits stores next spring, the miniSD-card-size adapter from SanDisk can add NFC to any smartphone with a Symbian operating system when it hits stores next spring.The first pay-by-phone option should roll out later this year, with more applications to follow.