Demonstrating that its contactless payments technology can serve other purposes, Powa Technologies will provide its PowaTag to Vodafone customers in the U.K. as a way to add minutes to their phone plans.

In a partnership between the two companies, Vodafone U.K. customers using the pay-as-you-go PayG plan for purchasing phone minutes will soon be able to top up by using the PowaTag app to scan a QR code.

London-based Powa, a provider of point of sale and mobile payment technology, introduced the PowaTag in March of 2014. This system can use Bluetooth, geolocation, the phone's camera and microphone to detect messages from posters, television ads, public service announcements and other sources.

Vodafone will initially test PowaTag by placing QR codes in posters at stores or in magazines, allowing its customers to add to their PayG plan at their convenience, said Dan Wagner, CEO of Powa Technologies.

"The partnership illustrates how customers can use the PowaTag in a different way," Wagner said. "The Vodafone customer doesn't have to go anywhere specific to allocate money to their phone SIM card for minutes."

Vodafone customers on the PayG plan can still add minutes online or at certain retail locations, Wagner said.

The scan-and-go process for adding phone minutes complements Vodafone's SmartPass Mobile Wallet, a Near Field Communication-based contactless system for tap-and-go payments launched in Spain in late 2013.

Powa has been aggressive in its pursuit of software vendors and other partners to expand its mobile commerce and point of sale technologies.

"We created PowaTag to give people a universal solution to complete everyday transactions quickly and efficiently," Wagner added. "Now it allows them to do anything from topping up their mobile phone to purchasing a handbag or donating to a charity, while turning almost any medium into virtual shopfronts."

Initially, the PowaTag technology will be supported at Vodafone's more than 500 retail locations, plus Argos, Brighthouse, Co-Op, Sainsbury's, Tesco, JD Williams and Wilkinson stores.

As part of the partnership, Vodafone is making its SIM pack available to thousands of international students arriving in the U.K. in November. The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service in the U.K. is distributing the cards, which will include a PowaTag on the back so students can top up phone minutes as soon as they arrive.

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