People fed up with the proliferation of credit cards, IDs and key cards that fill their wallets to bulging may soon have an alternative. New technology could bundle such functions into just one item: your cell phone.

Near Field Communication technology, jointly developed by Sony and Royal Philips Electronics, lets wireless devices connect to other devices nearby and transfer data, from payment information to digital pictures. Samsung Electronics and Philips say they are developing cell phones with embedded NFC chips that could double as debit cards or electronic IDs. The companies plan to begin field trials toward the end of the year.



Such phones are already available in Japan and Korea, where users can charge their phones with virtual cash, then wave them near NFC-enabled machines to buy anything from a soda to lunch. But it remains to be seen how Americans will react to the devices, which are not yet available outside Asia, said wireless technology analyst Allen Nogee of In-Stat/MDR.



“Americans seem to be more skeptical of new technology like this,” Nogee said, largely because of security and privacy concerns.



However, Nogee said the systems seem to have adequate security measures — like requiring personal identification numbers, so thieves could not make purchases — and could provide consumers with added protections in some cases.



“In theory, merchants will have wireless devices they can bring to you,” he said. “When you buy something in a restaurant, you have to give them your card. They go off with your card and could be writing down your number. With this, they’d bring a portable device to your table and (the transaction) would be encrypted.”



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