we have come through in finding a solution that not only fits the bill of something that businesses are willing to use, but also complies with the absolute minefield of certification and compliance issues that surround the payment industry. We started that particular journey back in early 2007 and some readers may also recall that we had a solution on the market in 2008-2009 which was purely an application running on a BlackBerry device, which allowed a business person to key in the details of a transaction. This was secure, accredited and successful, but did not sit clearly enough in a transaction type that the card schemes and acquirers were familiar with, plus mobile was only just becoming understood. Truthfully, we were probably too early.
We have now come down a route that allows us to be more clearly understood by everyone in the financial services industry as well as reducing the barriers of cardholder acceptance; familiarity and trust are absolutely vital for all of us when it comes to money!
eMerit still remains as a completely secure application running on a variety of smartphones and tablets, but it now also incorporates another small piece of Bluetooth-connected hardware which allows insertion of the customer card and their PIN entry. In short, for the cardholder, it effectively replicates the process they’re used to carrying out on a daily basis at a petrol station or restaurant, it’s just that the ‘seller’ (or merchant) is using a phone or tablet, not an enormous till.
We offer every element of this solution directly to a merchant, a one-stop-shop, so this also makes it incredibly easy for a dealer to resell it in to their customer base. Additionally, we offer either an upfront or ongoing revenue share to all of our resellers, simply for creating the introduction, and we will help support every stage of the process. That revenue can continue to be paid for as long as the merchant continues to trade, allowing dealers to make money in their sleep.
MB: What are the common security concerns for mobile payment applications, and what has eMerit done to combat those issues?
TC: Security and money are, as you might expect, two very, very sensitive words when uttered in the same breath and are enormously complex to understand comprehensively. Probably the single most significant challenge for us over the last few years has been the fact that the card schemes (Visa and Mastercard), acquirers, and other governing bodies have been evolving their understanding of mobile payment acceptance as time progresses, and this has made it very difficult to create a solution that satisfies the latest guidelines.
We have a strong relationship with these organisations now and all believe that we are fighting toward the same purpose; mass adoption of mobile payment acceptance.
The biggest concern now, and always has been, the massive variation of operating systems and hardware platforms that exist within the mobile channel. Add to this the speed at which new devices are released and then subsequently become surpassed by the latest and greatest handset, and there is little or no chance for the certifications required within the payment sector to be applied directly to a typical phone.
We have overcome the concerns around this by making sure that the phones and tablets used will never, ever see any sensitive card data that is being processed. The application itself will continue to manage information about the login, sale, and network connectivity, where a receipt is being sent to etc, and it’ll even log the GPS location of the transaction, but it will never view any card data, not even for an instant.
When the cardholder enters their card and pin into the pad, all of that data is encrypted to an incredibly high standard before it is passed to the device via Bluetooth. This is then sent on instantly to our secure payment gateway and this is the first place that the data becomes decrypted for review to be accepted or declined as a payment.
MB: What are the big trends coming in mobile payments that we are likely to see over the next 12 months, and how will these impact on the indirect mobile channel?
TC: My belief is that the main mobile payment concept at the forefront of a lot of minds at the moment is how we, as consumers, will begin to pay for everything with our phones in typical retail environments; basically implying that we are moving into a cashless and cardless world.
Whilst I do not disagree with this as a concept, there are enormous adoption barriers to overcome and this type of technology is also reliant on the consumer hardware compatibility and also that of the merchant.
Our focus at eMerit is around payment acceptance and how it is possible to mobilise a merchant and their ability to take payments from their customers anytime, anywhere, using something they have had, and will have, for years; their payment card.
My personal belief is that there will still be some considerable jostling for position over the next 12 to 24 months as all parties begin to understand how they can fit in to the mobile payments landscape. One thing that is certain is that anyone wanting to make a serious indentation in the market will need the help of the indirect channel to gain traction in the UK market; they just need to make sure the incentives are there.
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