Using an electronic purse.
Although electronic purses could be used as a replacement for cash, it appears likely that in the near future the main applications will be in special areas as in the preceding scenarios. For electronic purses to become economically viable for general use, requires wide acceptance by both consumers and retailers (eg shops and public houses).
A typical scenario for using an electronic purse might start with a person loading and checking their card with a telephone linked device at home, driving to a rail station car park, using the card to pay for entrance to the car park and paying for a train ticket. The person might stop for a coffee at the shopping centre, pay for their coffee with their card, check their card balance on their balance reader and go shopping. Whilst shopping the card could be reloaded from a bank cash machine. The card would again be used for shopping, checked occasionally, used for the journey home and for leaving the car park.
Loading a card.
To load an electronic purse, the user must be able to operate an ATM or card loading machine. Usually this requires the user to be able to read a visual display, but methods for alleviating this problem have been developed (Gill, 1996 & 1997).
Using a card at a retail terminal.
To use the electronic purse, the user hands the card to the shop assistant who inserts the card in a terminal and keys in the amount of the transaction. This is displayed visually to the customer. Once again, the person must be able to read a display screen. The customer confirms that the amount is correct, and the money is transferred from the card to the terminal. In some systems, the customer needs to key in their PIN (personal identification number) before the transaction can be completed.
In the future, PIN systems may be superceded by biometric methods such as iris patterns, fingerprints or facial recognition. Ideally users should be able to choose to use a PIN instead of a biometric method if they have problems with the biometric system (eg fingerprint recognition requires the user to be able to place a finger precisely on a scanner).
Many electronic purse systems provide users with a balance reader. These readers are approximately the size of a chocolate bourbon biscuit and tend to have low contrast visual displays which are very difficult to read by people with impaired vision.
Systems, such as Mondex, offer customers the possibility of using an electronic 'wallet' to verify balances and to transfer money from one card to another. For instance a taxi driver might have an electronic wallet so that he or she can accept electronic payments.
The lack of standardisation could cause problems for some users. For example, already the keypads on some electronic wallets vary in the way they are laid out; some have keys that use the telephone format others the calculator format. This causes problems for persons with low vision who would like all keypads to be laid out in the same way.
Many of the wallets offer the possibility of 'locking' the card using a four digit PIN. The wallets are not easy to use by the uninitiated and pose particular difficulties for those who cannot read the liquid crystal display.
Fund transfer via screen phone.
Mondex also offers the facility to transfer funds between the card and the customer's bank account using a screen phone (currently limited to models developed by BT). Screen phones can be modified to be accessible by blind people, so this method of loading a card could be the preferred mode for many blind and partially sighted users.