Japan has some of the coolest mobile phones and services in the world, so it's no surprise that NTT Docomo is always high on our visit list during CommunicAsia. Spun off as a subsidiary of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT) in 1991, the company today serves over 57 million users in Japan and is its leading mobile phone operator.
This year's booth focuses on a commercial NFC (Near Field Communication) roaming service, the DriveNet service which promises to make your mobile phone as good as a GPS unit, AR (Augmented Reality), and a prototype multi-band power amplifier.
NFC (Near Field Communication) technology turns your mobile phone into a wallet and credit card at the same time, letting you use your phone to pay for things. Using an NFC mobile phone like this isn't new, Docomo has been using this technology in their handsets since 2004, and they're called Osaifu-Keitai, or wallet mobile phones in Japan.
What NTT Docomo wants to do now is to create a global mobile NFC standard, so that NFC mobile phone can make payments regardless of location, all over the world. Imagine having your mobile phone not only pay for your train ticket here in Singapore, but having that same phone pay for a drink in Tokyo the very next day. Docomo has already announced an agreement with South Korea telecom operator, KT Corporation, to introduce seamless cross-border NFC payments in end 2012.
NTT Docomo's DriveNet application promises to make your mobile phone as good as a GPS unit, with constantly updated maps, traffic information, even nearby restaurant guides for hungry passengers. Just plug in a DriveNet mobile phone into the Smart Cradle and you're good to Tokyo drift.
Also on display were mobile phones and tablets with multi-player augmented reality games. One demo had two mobile phones battling for fish out of a printed logo which transformed into a fish pond on the mobiles' displays. The other had two tablets piecing together a globe together. Both devices used NFC technology to pair up, bump the devices together to link them to multi-player, and then what one player does on his device will be seen on the other player's screen as well. It'll be interesting to see how AR technology evolves in time, from gaming to further real-world applications.
Something which could help make mobile phones even smaller is Docomo's prototype power amplifier for six frequency bands. Today's mobile phones use sets of power amplifiers, one for each frequency band, but Docomo's prototype is smaller than sets of single-band power amps. As a result, you may see mobile phones that are even slimmer than their modern-day counterparts - but you'll have to wait a while, as Docomo says the earliest we'll see this multi-band amp in commercial use will be in 2013.