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Now, swipe your mobile to pay bills!

January 18, 2008 04:44 IST

Now you can swipe your mobile phone to purchase things, much like a credit card, with a Mumbai-based company rolling out a technology to enable this.

The company has already roped in Axis Bank for the service and is in the advanced stages of beta testing, while the commercial launch is just three months away.

The company behind this innovation is Atom Technologies, a subsidiary of the BSE-listed Financial Technologies (India) Ltd, which runs the Multi Commodity Exchange of India.

According to FTIL director (Technology), Dewang Neralla, Atom Technologies' product -- Atom Card -- and software can burn the user's credit card data to a mobile phone, that too over-the-air (like making a call or sending an SMS).

The data would be stored in a 2-D bar code format and cannot be read even by the user, assuring security in case the handset is lost or stolen. However for making a purchase an authentication -- providing the PIN -- has to be made.

After the credit card data is burned on the mobile phone (irrespective of the operator, but in collaboration with the card-issuing bank), the handset can be used instead of credit cards.

The swiping model, which the company terms as optical payment, can be done at any merchant establishment that has the requisite software. The company will upload a 2-D barcode on the phone that can be read by a simple webcam with the necessary software.

Neralla claims that a Rs 200-webcam is all that is required for reading the 2-D barcode. The company has also received a patent for this payment mode in the US.

The second method is remote location, or over-the-air authentication, by which the user can use the cards sitting at home or office. In this case, the merchant establishment and the bank are connected over the air and the user will have to approve the purchase. Hitherto, the user will have to authenticate the deal.

However, the system will work only on Java-enabled phones (a high-end graphic suite), and at present, the lowest Java handset available in the market is priced at around Rs 3,000, said Niranjan Gosavi, chief marketing officer, Atom.

Atom would provide the software free-of-cost to banks, merchant establishments and customers, but will levy a percentage of the transactions as its fee, he said.

The company, which is already doing a pilot study with 500 customers of Axis Bank, is in the advanced stages of tying with other banks in the country. Atom is also planning to provide the solution to overseas market and is in talks with international banking majors, he added.

Companies like Bharti Airtel, Reliance Communications and C-Sam (a firm founded by Sam Pitroda) were also looking at offering mobile commerce solutions.

C-Sam had earlier launched mobile wallet in Japan and Scandinavian countries, while Airtel and RCom are offering certain wallet services like money transfer, mobile remittance, cheque clearance, ticket booking, among others, over mobile.

Value-added service providers like IMImobile and Roamware are into the developing of these kinds of applications.

However, the Reserve Bank of India is yet to give clearance for mobile wallet services and companies are waiting for the apex bank's approval.

Rajesh S Kurup in Mumbai
Source: source