Reuters reports that Japanese mobile operator NTT DoCoMo is setting up a mobile payments joint-venture McDonald’s Holdings Co. (Japan). McDonald’s Japan will hold a 70 percent stake in the joint venture, with DoCoMo owning the rest. The companies had announced in July their intention to launch a 300 million yen ($2.48 million) venture. In addition to enabling mobile payments, the venture will offer some users special promotions. (However, the article is thin on details, so no idea how this will play out in mobile marketing campaigns and/or loyalty-schemes.)
Friday, February 23, 2007
Upaid used last week's 3GSM Congress as a platform to announce the arrival of a new product - ValU, a hosted 'payments club' solution that connects with VisaNet and other providers' back-office systems at one end, and mobile subscibers at the other.
Processing payments via mobile has long been one of the industry's big hopes, but after years of trying, very little has emerged in to commercial reality.
Upaid hopes to change all this, as its senior VP of sales, Richard Owen explained, by integrating mobile devices in to existing banking systems, instead of trying to create new ones.
"We'd rather use real banking and payments processes than imitate them," said Owen.
Upaid's ValU is planned to go live in early 2008. The key features are that customer data is not exposed to the merchant or other third parties, being communicated only between Upaid and the user, the whole thing is compliant with VisaNet specifications, and everything is encrypted to 128 bit SSL, with 3DES being included in later upgrades.
Although the user interface with a merchant is set up over the mobile data link, the communication between the subscriber and Upaid is carried as an SMS message, thus providing out-of-band authentication.
Demonstrations of proximity payment systems, allowing users to pay for products with a wave of the phone, have been around for years, but developments at 3GSM last week might show more progress in that direction, but there's still a long road to be travelled.
Fourteen mobile operators around the world have teamed up to create a standard payment system using Near Field Communications (NFC).
To be called "Pay-Buy Mobile", the standard is backed by AT&T and China Mobile, among others, and should lead to interoperability between suppliers' equipment and financial companies.
The NFC Forum takes care of the radio communications standards necessary to facilitate mobile payment, but doesn't get involved in the logistical structure of managing financial transactions. The GSMA has recently mapped out how that structure might look, through various white papers and guidance to members.
Proximity payment enthusiasts often point to the FeliCa system, operating successfully in Japan, which allows customers to install the EDY payment system onto their phones, enabling them to pay for small purchases, and (critically) public transport, with a wave of their handset.
FeliCa handsets are now sold by all the Japanese networks, though NTT DoCoMo was the driving force behind it. As an investor in BitWallet, which owns and runs the EDY system, and FeliCa itself, NTT DoCoMo has a real interest in promoting the system, and with its expansion into banking it has also established a revenue stream.
And it is the revenue stream which is still causing problems for operators elsewhere - they are going to have to pay for the hardware through handset subsidy, and so far their opportunity to recoup that investment is hard to pin down.
At 3GSM Nokia demonstrated the Nokia 6131 NFC, a handset featuring integrated NFC and applications to manage them. We'll be getting a couple at Vulture Central and will let you know what we think. But even when handsets do come along (and the NFC Forum were promising several manufacturers would have integrated handsets by the end of 2008), network operators are going to have to believe they can make money out of NFC, and proximity payments, if the technology is going to go anywhere.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Raising money via MySpace widgets has become a growing trend: ChipIn has refocused around MySpace widgets, while Heifer also has one. Another newcomer, CareBadges is starting to emerge, and its links with RockYou should help it succeed.
CareBadges are Flash-based fund-raising widgets that let you collect money or raise awareness for any cause. The standout feature is tracking: they’ll track how much you’ve raised, but also the “spread” of widgets around the web. So if you post a badge to your page and twenty visitors repost it to their pages, the funds raised by all those referred users will also be logged - it’s like a big affiliate scheme.
A new feature they’re promoting is the ability to add RockYou slideshows to your widget, too. In fact, Carebadges’ co-founder Saar Gur was an angel investor in RockYou (not to mention co-founder of BrightRoll, angel investor in Frengo and more), and the site has managed to score a mention on the RockYou blog. That RockYou widget is the most viewed by far, scoring 2,257,505 impressions. However, it has only raised $69 during that time, suggesting that the conversion rate might be low. That said, we’re all for promoting good causes on Mashable, and the combination of viral widgets and a positive message should be pretty powerful.
Hooman over at Widgify also covered CareBadges this week.