The challenge: to facilitate smart-card financial transactions in areas beyond the reach of landlines. The solution: Transform the mobile phone into a merchant terminal. Handsets by Way Systems, a Cambridge, Massachusetts–based wireless-technology provider, come equipped with a card scanner; vendors in rural areas and on-the-go merchants in cities use them to swipe a customer’s debit (or credit) card and generate a receipt from a tiny infrared printer. Way has teamed up with Visa International, which has pretty much saturated Western markets: If Way’s “mobile transaction terminals,” now being rolled out in China, demonstrate “the right cost and technological effectiveness,” says Roger Swales, Visa’s chief of global acceptance, “they should make vast inroads into areas that have been difficult for us to crack.”
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