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Brooktrout, Pepsi, Toast M-Commerce

If Brooktrout has its way, the Pepsi generation will reach for a cell phone instead of a change purse next time they crave a soda.

The Needham, Mass., firm, along with CTI Labs and Pepsi Cola Germany, is testing technology that allow customers to charge drinks to their mobile phone account. The offering is on display at the CeBIT trade show in Hanover, Germany, this week.

Here's how it works. A customer dials a toll-free number posted on the vending machine and is authenticated as the authorized user. A charge is placed on his account which appears on the next montly bill. The system then signals the machine to continue with the transaction.

"Our target customers are very young and mobile. Short messaging service and wireless phones play a big role in their lives," said Jvrg Schuster, of Pepsi Cola Germany. "Vending machines that enable payment with mobile phones hit our target market exactly."

In addition to reaching teen-agers, a key customer group, Pepsi also expects to see higher sales because potential customers won't have to have cash on hand.

"The idea of paying for a soft drink using the mobile phone is not new, but existing mobile payment implementations are still too expensive for small amounts or too complicated," said Michelle Fragola, a Brooktrout executive. "Consumers will only accept ready-to-go solutions at no extra charge."

Brooktrout sees great potential for the m-commerce technology, despite research from Gartner Dataquest showing that handset sales declined last year for the first time in the industry's history. Even with the 3 percent dip, more more than 400 million units were still sold and existing customers are demanding greater functionality.

Variations could also be made. For example, a voucher system, similar to a pre-paid calling program -- could be set up to provide anonymity and flexibility. Or, different users could connect to their own accounts regardless of whose phone they used.

Shares of BRKT rose 0.12, or 2 percent, to 6.5 on Wednesday. In the last 52 weeks, the issue has ranged from 2.72 to 8.625.