Electronic cash cards carried by majority of Japanese

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Do you have a contactless IC chip-based electronic cash card? graph of japanese statisticsA significant milestone in the penetration of electronic cash within Japanese society has been reached, with this survey conducted by goo Research and reported on by japan.internet.com into electronic cash showing that now over half the population (of internet users) carry some form of credit-card form-factor electronic cash. This is the first of a new series of regular surveys by goo Research into electronic cash.

Demographics

Between the 19th and 21st of May 2008 1,091 members of the goo Research online monitor panel completed a private internet-based questionnaire. 52.9% of the sample was male, 16.3% in their teens, 18.2% in their twenties, 21.4% in their thirties, 16.2% in their forties, and 27.9% aged fifty or older.

Note that the questions below were concerned with credit-card sized cards, not mobile phones, so the actual percentage of owners of electronic cash-capable devices would actually be higher, although of course usage is another matter.

I carry an ICOCA rail pass, but I never put any money in it, so I don’t know if that would count or not in this survey! Otherwise, I am quite happy carrying a pocketful of dross around with me all the time.
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RFID-enabled IC chip cards carried by over 90% of all salarymen

Hello Kitty Faraday cage for RFID-enabled cards

I feel RFID is greatly misunderstood, and deliberately misrepresented, by those with axes to grind regarding surveillance, as although the more usual passive type of RFID can technically be read from a few metres distance in ideal condition, it is very sensitive to interference from other metal items making random distance attacks infeasible. Just in case you are really paranoid, as pictured above, Kitty chan can protect you! To find out what the average Japanese does with their IC Chipped cards, JR Tokai Express Research Inc performed a survey on this very subject of IC Cards.

Demographics

Over the 30th and 31st of January 2008 330 members of the JR Tokai Express Research monitor group employed in either the private or public sector completed an online survey. 78.8% were male, 9.1% in their twenties, 38.5% in their thirties, 36.1% in their forties, 11.8% in their fifties, and 4.2% in their sixties.

I have three chipped credit cards, with one of them doubling as an employee ID card, and an ICOCA train pass so I’m actually slightly below the average.
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Majority of mobile phone wallets sit unused

How often do you use your Osaifu Keitai (mobile wallet)? graph of japanese opinionWith the Japanese market getting frankly rather crowded, with new electronic money services being launched every other week it seems, japan.internet.com reported on a survey conducted by goo Research on the matter of Osaifu Keitai, or mobile phone electronic wallets.

Demographics

Between the 31st of May and the 2nd of June 2007 1,093 members of goo Research’s online monitor group completed a private internet-based questionnaire. 52.2% of the sample was male, 17.1% in their teens, 19.5% in their twenties, 18.0% in their thirties, 17.6% in their forties, 16.6% in their fifties, and 11.2% aged sixty or older.

Most new mobile phones are equipped with the FeliCa chip, the RFID electronics from Sony that powers almost all the smart cards in Japan, so it is perhaps not terribly surprising that the awareness of Osaifu Keitai is so high. I’ve actually never owned a phone with the chip, however.
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Electronic cash usage: part 2 of 2

About how often do you use electronic cash? graph of japanese opinion[part 1] [part 2]

Macromill Inc recently published the results of some research it conducted into electronic money, in particular nanaco and WAON.

Demographics

Between the 9th and 10th of April 2007 1,030 members of Macromill Monitor group resident in Tokyo or the three surrounding prefectures completed a private online survey. The group was split exactly 50:50 male and female in each of the five age bands: 20.0% in their teens (between 15 and 19), 20.0% in their twenties, 20.0% in their thirties, 20.0% in their forties, and 20.0% in their fifties.

My use of electronic money is very limited. I have a Suica, or to be correct an Icoca card, the Kansai equivalent of Suica, which holds my season ticket and also sometimes cash, although I’ve almost exclusively used it at railway ticket gates, and one time only in a cafe when I realised I hadn’t any money. Just like I was never keen on debit cards in the UK, giving away cash in advance is just not appealing to me.

My concern about the security aspect of electronic cash is not about personal loss or skimming-like attacks, but the fundamentals such as hackers working out how to add cash to a card. From what I know of RFID security it is actually theoretically straightforward to hack out passwords and keys from certain smart cards through side-channel attacks, but I don’t know what counter-measures have been taken by the manufacturers, or what protection there is on mobile-phone applications. Actually, this is the vague area where I work, so I better not speculate out loud in case my boss is listening…
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Electronic cash usage: part 1 of 2

Do you know about 7-11's nanaco electronic money service? graph of japanese opinion[part 1] [part 2]

Macromill Inc recently published the results of some research it conducted into electronic money, in particular nanaco and WAON.

Demographics

Between the 9th and 10th of April 2007 1,030 members of Macromill Monitor group resident in Tokyo or the three surrounding prefectures completed a private online survey. The group was split exactly 50:50 male and female in each of the five age bands: 20.0% in their teens (between 15 and 19), 20.0% in their twenties, 20.0% in their thirties, 20.0% in their forties, and 20.0% in their fifties.

Even though I have quite an interest in electronic money, I’d only vaguely heard of nanaco, and never of WAON, even though I often shop in their supermarkets. Perhaps the initial launch is limited to the Tokyo area, or perhaps my rather run-down supermarket in the suburbs is way down in the priority list!
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Almost all users satisifed with PASMO

How convenient do you think the PASMO service is? graph of japanese opinionWith PASMO, a system allowing one electronic ticket to be used throughout almost all the public transport lines operated by many different companies, both rail and bus, throughout Tokyo and its environs, being recently introduced on Monday the 18th of March 2007, japan.internet.com reported on a survey conducted by Cross Marketing Inc on the Friday and Saturday of the same week as it was launched (ie the 22nd and 23rd of March) into the PASMO service.

Demographics

300 internet users resident in the Tokyo area completed the survey. The group was split 50:50 male and female for each age group, with 20.0% in their teens, 20.0% in their twenties, 20.0% in their thirties, 20.0% in their forties, and 20.0% in their fifties. It is not stated how many were regular train users.

I’m resident in the Kansai area, and although there is a degree of sharing between the ex-public JR lines and the private operators, the main thing missing, which PASMO provides to the capital dwellers, is the ability to carry just one card with all my season tickets gathered together on it. At the moment I have three different ones, and only one is IC-based, as one of the lines I travel on is just introducing its IC commuting ticket, and another has instead of a season ticket a capped pay-as-you-go (actually pay-after-you-go) scheme that offers discounts on frequently-used routes that add up to never being charged more than a standard magnetic-type pass holder. In addition, carrying three active IC chips, plus my work IC chipped ID card, would mean I’d no doubt confuse the ticket gates no end if I accidentally let the wrong card be read.
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Over a third want IC card-based ID cards

How satisifed are you with your railway IC card? graph of japanese opiniongoo Research recently published a massive survey of 35,925 internet users by means of a public internet-based questionnaire on the use of railway IC cards. They collected replies during a week at the end of June and the start of July. 53.3% of the respondents were female, 2.3% in their teens, 22.3% in their twenties, 39.6% in their thirties, 24.0% in their forties, 8.7% in their fifties, 2.3% in their sixties, 0.6% in their seventies, and the remaining 0.2% chose not to reveal their age. Also, 30.6% of the sample lived in the Tokyo area, 7.4% in the Nagoya area, and 16.6% in Kansai – Tokyo and Kansai have railway smart card services (namely JR’s SUICA in Tokyo and JR’s ICOCA and the private railways’ PiTaPa in Kansai) and major train concentrations, but I don’t believe Nagoya has, although it is the third major centre of population in Japan. According to the survey, though, there is plans to launch a JR TOICA card for the Nagoya area.

For those of you not familiar with their operation, here is a quick history of the cards in the Kansai area. First, JR launched the ICOCA card with two key features; one, a pre-paid season ticket and two, electronic cash, whereby money could be added manually then used either for shopping around the station or to use instead of train tickets for travel outside the season ticket’s area. A couple of years later the private railways launched the PiTaPa system, which had a quite different payment model. First, there was no season ticket, but instead between two nominated stations you got a 5% discount for each journey in your first month, rising to 15% for the third, if I remember correctly. These fares were post-pay; at the end of each month all your travel was added up and automatically withdrawn from a nominated account. For purchases other than train fares, there was also a standard electronic wallet system as for ICOCA. In addition, if you chose a credit card version of your PiTaPa card, when your available cash fell below a certain point, the card could be set to automatically recharge itself as you passed through the ticket gates. Note that although there are about seven or eight transport companies that support PiTaPa, when using another company’s transport your fares come from the electronic cash portion, and no discounts are available. This makes it a major pain for people like me who use two private railways and JR to get to work, as I would need to carry three separate cards, probably in three separate wallets to avoid interference, to get full benefit from the discounts.

In the meantime, JR announced their Smart ICOCA, which was an ICOCA card and credit card combined, with the similar auto top-up feature. In addition, ICOCA and PiTaPa got together and now allow the electronic cash to be used at each other’s ticket gates. Finally, Hankyu have just started a pre-pay system for season tickets (just like the original ICOCA), so holders of their Hana Plus PiTaPa-compatible credit cards can add a season ticket to their card, for people who’d rather manage their commuting fares that way round.

I almost forgot – the latest DoCoMo FOMA mobile phones also support some aspects of railway IC cards’ electronic cash system, but I’m not really sure of the exact capabilities.

Note also that the Tokyo JR SUICA cards can be used in the Kansai ICOCA area and vice versa. I’m not sure whether or not SUICA and PiTaPa interact, though.
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Mobiles to replace cash and plastic in ten years?

When do you think wallets will become redundant? graph of japanese opinionNTT DoCoMo recently published an interesting survey they performed to find out what people thought about mobile phone credit cards. They interviewed 1,800 people from all over Japan in February by means of a web-based questionnaire. The sample was exactly 50:50 male and female, and 150 people of each sex from each decade of life, from the teens to the sixties, responded. Note that the teens consisted only of 18 and 19 year olds, though.

First, mobile phone credit cards are just what the term implies – they are mobile phones with a credit card’s contactless RFID chip embedded within them, so instead of your traditional bit of plastic, your mobile phone now becomes the device with which you Chip and Pin.

Note that currently credit cards are not as widely used in Japan as they might be in Europe and the USA. In addition, most shops and restaurants that are part of a chain will accept credit cards (although one of my local supermarkets doesn’t), but independent shops on the whole do not accept them. Note the answers to Q5, where over four in five use their credit card once a week or less, and the perhaps slightly loaded answers in Q7 (there is no indication if the question allowed a free answer or just a selection from a list, with perhaps lower-scoring answers omitted from the results) suggesting that plastic is preferred for luxuries or large purchases.

Overall, I think that this survey suggests that people will see mobile credit cards as an extension of the current mobile wallets, so they will treat them as something to use everyday for even the smallest transactions. From the provider’s point of view, small transactions still have a fixed basic fee associated with them, so charging a bottle of cold tea to your phone’s credit card could cost the retailer up half the retail price in transaction fees. How shop owners can cope with this new threat to their profit margins remains to be seen, and would in fact make a good theme for a future survey.
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Worries about electronic wallets persist

Are you uneasy about using Osaifu keitai? graph of japanese opinioniSHARE recently surveyed the memberrs of CLUB BBQ to see what their opinions on various issues surrounding mobile phones were, but the only results they posted in this news release were regarding electronic money and phone features. 718 people, 72% male replied to the private internet questionnaire carried out, according to the article, over two days at the end of February this year, but I presume this is a typo for January.

Note that CLUB BBQ is a free mail service that in return for free usage the members must regularly fill out surveys. It’s interesting that for this survey, and many others that iSHARE have performed, the men outnumber women two to one, whereas most other internet monitor-based surveys are around 60% female, perhaps indicating the CLUB BBQ is a more male-oriented site; judging by the various anime characters around the iSHARE web site I would say that this would seem to be true. This might suggest that the average CLUB BBQ user may very well be a heavier user of technology.
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Electronic money use in Japan: part 2 of 2

Is electronic money convenient? graph of japanese opinion[part 1] [part 2]

DIMSDRIVE carried out a survey at the start of December to find people’s views regarding electronic money. They interviewed by means of an internet-based questionnaire 6,430 people from all over Japan, 2,736 (42.6%) male, all members of their monitor group.

In the second half of this survey, most of the users seem to be doing small transactions, and are attracted mainly to the speed, and as noted previously, convenience stores and railway kiosks are the most popular locations, so that suggests the main users are perhaps commuters are the regular users, darting in and out for a newspaper and an energy drink on the way to work. For those who haave not used electronic money, the main issue (other than the inability to perform transactions due to not having had the opportunity nor the hardware) seems to be education of the consumer.
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