M-commerce (mobile commerce) is the buying and selling of goods and services through wireless handheld devices such as cellular telephone and personal digital assistants (PDAs). Known as next-generation e-commerce, m-commerce enables users to access the Internet without needing to find a place to plug in. The emerging technology behind m-commerce, which is based on the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP), has made far greater strides in Europe, where mobile devices equipped with Web-ready micro-browsers are much more common than in the United States.
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In order to exploit the m-commerce market potential, handset manufacturers such as Nokia, Ericsson, Motorola, and Qualcomm are working with carriers such as AT&T Wireless and Sprint to develop WAP-enabled smart phones, the industry's answer to the Swiss Army Knife, and ways to reach them. Using Bluetooth technology, smart phones offer fax, e-mail, and phone capabilities all in one, paving the way for m-commerce to be accepted by an increasingly mobile workforce.
As content delivery over wireless devices becomes faster, more secure, and scalable, there is wide speculation that m-commerce will surpass wireline e-commerce as the method of choice for digital commerce transactions. The industries affected by m-commerce include:
- Financial services, which includes mobile banking (when customers use their handheld devices to access their accounts and pay their bills) as well as brokerage services, in which stock quotes can be displayed and trading conducted from the same handheld device
- Telecommunications, in which service changes, bill payment and account reviews can all be conducted from the same handheld device
- Service/retail, as consumers are given the ability to place and pay for orders on-the-fly
- Information services, which include the delivery of financial news, sports figures and traffic updates to a single mobile device
IBM and other companies are experimenting with speech recognition software as a way to ensure security for m-commerce transactions.