NTT DoCoMo Inc., Coca-Cola (Japan) Co. Ltd. and Itochu Corp. plan to launch a trial on Sept. 3 of a service that lets users of the I-mode wireless Internet service buy soft drinks and other services from vending machines using their cellular handsets.
The companies said on Wednesday that the new service, called Cmode , will be the first widespread test of an electronic money function on I-mode handsets -- a service that NTT DoCoMo hopes to introduce on a larger, commercial scale in the future.
Using Cmode, users will deposit money via a vending machine into electronic money accounts. These accounts will be stored on a central server and available for use at any time. The key to user identification will be a unique barcode that is displayed on each user's cell phone screen and read by a sensor in the vending machine. DoCoMo has already experimented with using barcodes displayed on cell phone handset screens to offer ticketless entry to movie theaters, and barcodes offering discounts at stores are already available to users via some I-mode sites.
The heart of the service will be the Cmode vending machines that will offer users more than just soft drinks. With a built-in printer and LCD (liquid crystal display) screen, the machines will also be able to print out street maps, discount coupons and other services that are accessed through the Cmode service.
The Cmode trial will initially run until Dec. 31, and 25 special vending machines will be deployed in Tokyo. Most will be in the Shibuya area of the city, where many young people gather.