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Telefonica Digital staff are to start testing NFC payments using BlackBerry smartphones, RIM announced in a blog post yesterday.

In collaboration with local banks and retailers, 350 Telefonica employees will trial the devices at its headquarters in Spain.

Telefonica CEO Matthew Key is quoted as saying the technology will be rolled out in several markets in 2012.

The ‘Telefonica Wallet’ is enabled on BlackBerry Bold 9900 (pictured below), Curve 9360 and Curve 9380 models, allowing staff to make payments and access the company offices by tapping their smartphone against a reader.

The system replicates a physical wallet, allowing users to choose from a range of cards to make transactions or simply check account balances.

Mark Brill, CEO of Formation, warned that the test won’t mean much unless Telefonica and RIM can learn something from it.

“It is slightly flawed as the staff will already trust BlackBerry and are probably already glued to their phones. You really need to test the technology on members of the public,” he said.

However Brill, who also chairs the DMA mobile council, believes the dual functionality of the Telefonica Wallet could be key to its success.

He said users are more likely to take up a new technology if it makes their life easier, particularly with NFC payments as there are concerns around security.

“Touch payments have been available in debit cards for some time but there hasn’t been a major take up. It is difficult to force new behaviours on people, you have to tie it in with something they are already doing,” said Brill.

He suggests that the best way to do this could be to combine an Oyster Card with the NFC transaction tool, as Londoners already trust Oyster and are used to using it everyday.

In a similar announcement, Starbucks has confirmed its UK cardholders will soon be able to pay their morning coffee using its iPhone app.

The one-touch app, which has been available in the US since the beginning of the year, will launch in the UK on January 5.

It works by linking the user’s Starbucks card to the app, allowing them to pay using the on-screen barcode.

According to Gizmodo one in five UK Starbucks customers already pays using a Starbucks card, so there is the potential for high usage of this app.

Phone manufacturers would certainly have us believe that NFC is the future, and PayPal claimed today that we will be living a cash-free existence by 2016.

But concerns around security will be the main obstacle, and Brill says that in his experience consumers tend to be polarised into those who think NFC technology is a great idea and those who are suspicious about it.

But with predictions that up to 50% of smartphones could be NFC-enabled in the next three years, it may be the case that carrying cash could soon become passé.

David Moth

Published 24 November, 2011 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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