Importantly, Firethorn's immediate focus isn't on mobile payments but, rather, on mobile banking. Firethorn says it is seeking to play the role of an intermediary service provider between financial institutions and wireless carriers - saying its "unique federation strategy links financial institutions to wireless carriers through a unified, secure and scalable technology platform that seamlessly extends full-service banking and payments capabilities to a consumer's mobile phone or other wireless device." Firethorn says it's different from others "because its federation strategy represents wireless carriers and financial institutions independently and equally."
Firethorn's approach isn't SMS-based but, rather, is based upon a secure application that is downloaded into the user's mobile handset. The challenges of developing and supporting an application like this acrossthe wide variety of handsets, carriers, etc. almost demand a company like Firethorn acting as the intermediary for developing and, importantly, supporting that application.
Via that application, in combination with a user's account data from the financial institution partner, users can perform several functions including viewing real-time financial account balances, conduct intra-bank transfers between accounts, have electronic bill presented, pay those bills electronically from the handset, and "clear contents quickly and easily in the event of loss."
Firethorn's initial partnerships with CheckFree, Cingular, and Synovus are certainly impressive. Founder and CEO Tripp Rackley previously built nFront, an online banking solutions provider that was acquired by Digital Insight. Rackley's recruited an impressive board of directors with experience in both telecommunications and payments - including Global Payments CEO Paul Garcia. We'll be watching this company for further developments as it pursues its federation strategy.