Vodafone is trialling technology that could mean mobile phones will replace wallets, credit cards and keys.
The company's chief executive Russell Stanners said yesterday Vodafone was experimenting with near-field communication (NFC), which allows information to pass from one device to another when they are near each other.
Customers could potentially use a phone with an NFC chip to pay for goods when they get to the counter, check-in to a flight or hotel room or unlock doors at their home and office.
Stanners said New Zealand had a chance to become an early adopter of this type of technology.
"It's something New Zealand should be a leader in," he said.
"The infrastructure is there. The timeframe will depend on whether [manufacturers] embrace near-field communication."
Stanners was tight-lipped on details but said trials were under way and Vodafone would be making an announcement on NFC in the coming weeks.
MasterCard and ANZ are also testing a similar initiative and this month will install payment terminals in some stores and taxis.
Rather than a chip inside a mobile, the MasterCard system works with a sticker that is placed on the back of a phone.
NFC terminals have already been set up at Eden Park and Westpac Stadium in time for the Rugby World Cup.
Nokia, Samsung, Motorola and LG manufacture NFC-capable devices and Apple is believed to be incorporating it into the hotly anticipated iPhone 5 due out this year.
In other parts of the world, NFC is being trialled as a ticketing system on trains and buses, allowing travellers to pay their fare using a mobile phone.
In Japan, NFC-type technology has been on the market for several years, letting users purchase items from vending machines or order movies to watch on their televisions with their phones.
NFC is regarded as safer than Bluetooth when it comes to transferring personal data as it has a much shorter range, reducing the risk of information spilling into the wrong hands.