The race is on to equip phones with Near Field Communication. NFC has been in access cards for years, held near a sensor plate for admission to secure buildings.
Banks are partnering with phone manufacturers and retailers to pair NFC mobiles with tills, allowing us to recycle the the term 'pay phone.'
When enough mobiles have NFC, access cards may all but vanish. Employers will simply email new hires with a link to authorise their mobile to open doors in the company building.
Whither cash? Naturally, it’ll come down to cost. NFC payment will need to have the same overhead cash does – zero – before it has a chance to replace coin and scrip.
Could a cashless society exist, when it would require phone ownership? Possibly. I’m sure network operators would be happy to jump in and make sure everyone’s equipped; they kind of already do that. Less industrialised regions of the world have already skipped telephone line infrastructures and gone straight to mobile so the idea is not too far out.
High profile applications like access and payment are, of course, only the beginning. New applications from ticketing and coupon kiosks to finding and making contacts in the field are just around the corner. With the possible exception of solid metal house keys, NFC may become the one thing it’s unthinkable to leave home without.