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The idea of turning your mobile phone into a digital wallet has a long and fruitless history. People are getting excited again about the prospect of mobile wallets replacing those in your pocket overstuffed with receipts and credit cards because both Google and Apple are pursuing the concept. The key technology that could make mobile wallets a reality are near field communication (NFC) chips. Google is already supporting NFC chips in Android phones such as the Nexus S and is expected to roll out tests of wave-and-pay systems at stores in New York City and San Francisco. Apple has been working on putting its own NFC chips in iPhones since at least last summer, although recent reports suggest the technology won’t be ready for the next iPhone 5.
Semiconductor solutions provider Inside Secure has released an open source NFC protocol stack for Android 2.3, code-named "Gingerbread," which it will provide to chip vendors, smartphone manufacturers, wireless carriers and software developers for free. The stack, called Open NFC, is the first hardware-independent implementation of NFC (near field communication) for Google's Android mobile operating system. Prior to this launch, Android's support for NFC code would only work with NFC chips from the vendor NXP Semiconducters.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt said Gingerbread, the upcoming update to Android that will roll out in the next few weeks, will include support for near field communications, making it possible for users to soon tap their phone and use it as a credit card. Schmidt took the stage at the Web 2.0 conference and showed off NFC on what appeared to be a Nexus S, the successor to the Nexus One . NFC is a technology that allows a user to tap and pay by bringing an embedded chip in close contact to a receiver. The Android operating system will now include support for the technology, allowing users to pay for items at point of sale systems by just waving their phone.