Contactless VISA Cash

The world’s first combined ‘swipe-free’ commuter-cash smartcard will be issued by Visa Spain, and is based on a unique new microcontroller developed by Motorola’s Semiconductor Products Sector. The commuter card will act as a combined travel pass and electronic purse, and can be read both by insertion into card readers and in ‘swipe-free’ contactless mode via sensors at ticket barriers. The new card will be launched by the Madrid Transport Consortium and will replace existing throw-away paper tickets with reloadable smartcards. Initial trials will begin by year’s end..

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New Post Office Terminals

PenWare and IBM said Monday they are teaming up to provide thousands of U.S. Post Offices and U.S. Postal Service Stores with PenWare3000 Interactive Transaction Terminals. The terminals will capture customers’ signatures electronically display advertisements, conduct customers surveys, and accept ATM/debit cards and credit cards – all with a single device. The terminals feature backlit, pressure-sensitive screens. The PenWare terminals are part of a new, automated system called POS ONE that IBM has developed for the U.S. Postal Service.

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Chase Goes Platinum

Chase has joined the Platinum card war to compete with MBNA, First USA, Banc One and Citibank. The Chase Platinum Visa and MasterCard features credit lines up to $100,000, automatic enrollment in ‘Chase’s Flight Rewards’ program and $1 million in travel accident insurance. Chase Platinum has no annual fee, and an introductory fixed rated of 5.9% for nine months on purchases and balance transfers. After the intro period the rate for relationship customers is prime +6.4% for balances under $2500 or prime + 4.4% for balances over $2500. Other cardholders will pay prime + 7.4% and prime + 5.4%, respectively.

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AmEx Student Loan Program

American Express and Chela Financial USA today announced the launch of one of the most affordable private student loans available for both undergraduate and graduate students.

Marketed by American Express(R) Educational Loans, funded by Chela Financial USA, and guaranteed by The Education Resources Institute (TERI), the loan complements American Express’ federally guaranteed loan products.

The low interest-rate loan is available to students attending accredited 4-year colleges and graduate schools and is designed to meet students’ individual financial circumstances. Flexible loan features include:

Low variable interest rate currently at 8.75 percent, adjusted quarterly Lower guarantee fee for undergraduate students who make in-school interest payments Lower guarantee fee for graduate students applying with a co-borrower; may also apply without a co-borrower In-school and residency deferment options Repayment terms for up to 25 years

“The American Express/Chela Financial private loan makes education more accessible,” said Mark K. Webb, Vice President and General Manager of American Express Educational Financing. “This loan is a great option for students who need to supplement their federal loans.”

In the 1995-96 academic year, nearly $30 billion was borrowed under various federally guaranteed education loan programs, according to a report published last year by The College Board. It is estimated that a further $1.3 billion was borrowed through private loan sources. The growing need for flexible alternatives to the traditional sources of funds spurred the development of this private loan product.

“We are excited to work with American Express,” said Carol L. Coffman, President and Chief Operating Officer of Chela Financial. “This partnership gives us the opportunity to combine American Express’ world-class customer service with Chela Financial’s experience of nearly 20 years in education finance to create a product that offers students a choice.”

The American Express/Chela Financial private loan is credit-based and school-certified. Financial Aid Administrators who want more information on offering this product through their schools should contact their American Express Regional Academic Representative or call 800/987-7770.

Founded in 1850, American Express Company is a diversified, world-wide travel and financial services company. It is a leader in charge and credit cards, Travelers Cheques, travel, financial planning, investment products, insurance, international banking and educational lending. To learn more about American Express’ education loan products and services, visit their Web site at [http://www.americanexpress.com/edloans .][1]

Chela Financial USA, Inc., a San Francisco-based non-profit corporation with over $1.3 billion in assets, was created specifically to offer financial access and assistance to students pursing a higher education. Since its inception, Chela Financial has made more than $2.0 billion in financing available to parent and student borrowers. Visit Chela Financial’s Web site at for more information.

[1]: http://www.americanexpress.com/edloans

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GERS to Showoff Stuff

On Sept. 10-12, 1997 GERS Retail Systems’ Consumer Electronics and Wireless Division will present their latest product enhancements for their open systems computer solutions software at PCS `97 in booth #28007 at the Dallas Convention Center.

The newest features include Serial Number Tracking, Credit Authorization, Automated Purchase Order Generation/Replenishment, Written Business Query, On-Screen Cash Drawer Balancing, Cellular Phone Customer Lookup, and Off-line Polling POS. These systems features greatly assist wireless, computer, mobile electronics and other retailers with the entire automation process.

Following is a description of each of the new GERS product enhancements.

Serial Number Tracking. This enhancement enables vastly improved handling of cellular telephone inventory and sales processing by providing for scanning and tracking of items by individual electronic serial numbers. Benefits include pin-point accuracy in managing cellular mobile telephone directory, improved ease of use, and efficiency in distribution operations involving cellular telephones.

Credit Authorization. This feature provides real-time, online communications with a credit card authorization service for authorization and settlement. Benefits include improved customer service, presents a state-of-the-art image to retail consumers, faster processing of credit card sales, and faster receipt of funding of credit card sales.

Automated Purchase Order Generation/Replenishment. This enhancement creates purchase orders quickly and efficiently by processing and presenting the recommended order quantity to an editable screen form prior to initializing the purchase order generation process. Benefits include facilitating better customer service through improved delivery time for custom orders, reduces data entry, and reduces data entry errors.

On-Screen Cash Drawer Balancing. This enhancement provides an online close-out screen, used by cashiers to capture beginning cash drawer status such as cash, checks, bank cards, and over/shorts. The amounts are then posted to the general ledger. Benefits include tighter cash management, reduction in the work required to balance each cash drawer, and detailed reporting for researching discrepancies.

Written Business Query. This enhancement offers accurate up-to-the-minute sales figure reporting to be viewed throughout the day. An option to show the ranking of the salespeople by store or store group, sales dollars, gross margin dollars, gross margin percent, warranty volume, or warranty percentage will be available optionally. This screen also provides an option for printing information. Benefits include less research time and more up-to-date information.

Cellular Phone Customer Lookup. This enhancement enables you to find a customer by their cellular phone number.

Off-line Polling POS. The Off-line Polling POS system allows for retail sales functionality at the store without the cost of a dedicated phone line.

Other enhancements include major modifications to the Tiered Cellular Activation Report, enabled UPC Code entry in many inventory movement screens, interface to the Windows-based POS system, and remote store Inventory/Receiving scanning enhancements.

GERS vice president Dennis Conforto commented: “GERS is excited to bring this new technology to the growing Consumer Electronics and Wireless Industry. We are confident that retailers will be astonished by the benefits that these enhancements will do for the productivity and performance of their company.”

GERS Retail Systems provides fully integrated, open systems computer solutions — software, hardware, and comprehensive training — for the general/specialty, big ticket home furnishings, consumer electronics, wireless, and major appliance retail industries.

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Gemplus Exec to Head Java Forum

Gemplus’ Michel Roux, General Manager of the company’s Multimedia Business Division, has been named Head of the Java Card Forum’s Business Committee.

The Java Card Forum is a users group started by Gemplus and Schlumberger in February 1997 to promote the Java Card API as an industry standard platform for smart cards, and to allow the exchange of technical information between participants.

Mr Roux’s responsibilities will include managing the Strategic Partners Program, overseeing the development of marketing requirements for input to the technical committee, and establishing and maintaining a strong communications link between the vertical segments in the market and the Forum.

Gemplus has been integrating open standards into smart cards for information systems since 1993 when it released its first card with an interpreter and query language.

Gemplus is the worlds’ leading producer of magnetic stripe and smart cards. It manufactures and sells memory cards, microprocessor cards (both contact and contactless), magnetic stripe cards, as well as electronic tags… It also designs and markets software, terminals and systems; and provides personalisation, consultancy and training services to offer its customers comprehensive solutions.

In 1996, Gemplus’ total sales were $440 million (equivalent to GBP 284 million on 2 September 1997). By the end of 1997, the company will have a production capacity of 900 million plastic and smart cards.

Gemplus sells its products worldwide for such applications as public and cellular telephony, financial transactions, loyalty, transportation, education, healthcare, gaming, identity, access control, pay TV, security for computer networks and electronic commerce. Information about Gemplus’ products and services can be found on the World Wide Web at: [http://www.gemplus.com.][1]

[1]: http://www.gemplus.com

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GemPlus Introduces MobilSmart

Gemplus announced Friday it is supplying its ‘GemXplore Phase 2+ SIM’ cards to a new remote banking application at Postgirot Bank AB in Sweden. The application, called ‘MobilSmart’ offers bank customers the ability to carry out banking transactions using their GSM-based mobile phone. They can pay their bills, and access banking and transaction information directly from their GSM handset. The transfer of money from one account to another is secured by the Gemplus SIM card, which ensures the security of the over-the-air transaction by computing an electronic signature that is sent to the bank.

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Nokia Demos Wireless Payment System

At the ITU Telecom Interactive `97 Exhibition Nokia and Unisource are showcasing wireless banking and payment services on a Nokia 9000 Communicator. One hundred people will be testing the Smart Access services over the next few months. The trialists from Telia of Sweden, Swiss Telecom PTT, PTT Telecom of the Netherlands, NatWest and Mondex of the UK, will be able to access their NatWest bank accounts to withdraw or deposit cash. Trialists will also be able to pay for information services, using the Mondex cash cards.

“The purpose of the trial is to prove the commercial feasibility of electronic payment, to provide new value-added services to our customers and to further test the technology. In electronic payment concept there are boundless opportunities for business and commerce.. The Internet and cellular networks are the two most rapidly growing information and communication platforms of today. Together they make an ideal backbone for the emerging electronic payment systems”, says Mikko Terho, Vice President, Wireless Data, Nokia Mobile Phones.

“Many information services use a subscription model for payment today because there is no workable alternative”, says Julian Wilson, Unisource Director Smart Access. “We hope the Smart Access trial with Nokia will demonstrate an attractive alternative to subscription”.

Smart Access makes use of electronic cash cards, which are becoming increasingly common, to enable immediate “virtual membership” to an information service. “Smart Access will complement existing subscription services and offer a new revenue opportunity to smaller businesses, unable to compete for subscribers”, says Julian Wilson.

The electronic money is on the Mondex smart card. The user inserts the card into the smart card reader connected to the Nokia 9000 Communicator. The cash on the card can be used to pay for digital goods or services. When the card is empty the user access their bank, with the communicator over GSM, to withdraw more funds, as if visiting the ATM machine in the high street.

Headquartered in Finland, Nokia is a leader in digital technologies including mobile phones, cellular and fixed telecommunications networks, wireless data solutions and multimedia terminals. With sales in approximately 130 countries, net sales totaled FIM 39.3 billion ($8.5 billion) in 1996. Nokia employs more than 34,000 people in 45 countries. Nokia’s shares are listed in Helsinki, New York, London, Stockholm, Frankfurt and Paris.

Unisource was created in response to the changing European business environment and customers’ requirements for pan-European and global communications services. The company was established in 1992 by Telia of Sweden and PTT Telecom of the Netherlands. Swiss PTT Telecom became a partner in 1993. In the same year Unisource extended its pan-European reach by forming a joint venture with AT&T of the USA, a partnership which is now being extended to merge other AT&T and Unisource operations in Europe. AT&T- Unisource Communications Services is also a member of the WorldPartners Association, a group which today consists of 17 telecoms service providers, distributing services in over 30 countries around the world. Unisource is also a shareholder of Infonet whose WorldNetwork data communications services now cover 175 countries worldwide.

The project was conceived by Unisource and is co-funded by PTT Telecom of the Netherlands. In addition, an international team of companies is actively involved with the development of the services and technology behind the new mobile access/payment service: Unisource, PTT Telecom Netherlands, CyberChipper, Nokia Mobile Phones, Hyperion, National Westminster Bank, Schiphol Airport, Time Out Magazine and Mondex UK.

Also at ITU Telecom Interactive ’97 exhibition in Geneve, Unisource Smart Access announced an agreement with Chipper International to facilitate CyberChipper purse Internet payments within the Smart Access services. This technical development phase is expected to lead to a commercial collaboration. “Smart Access offers the CyberChipper team an enhanced proposition to merchants and Chipper offers Smart Access more `virtual members’,” says Julian Wilson.

The concept of Smart Access is built on using the efficient settlement features of electronic cash as a means of paying for network services. The concept is designed to be network access, smart card and device independant.

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AOL to Swallow CompuServe

America Online will cement its dominance of the online world today as it acquires, via a complex transaction, CompuServe. The breaking development this morning will add another 2.6 million subscribers to AOL’s current 9.0 million customers. The complex transaction involves the acquisition of CompuServe by WorldCom and then the sale of CompuServe to AOL. AOL will sell its ANS Communication subsidiary to WorldCom in exchange for CompuServe and $175 million in cash. CompuServe’s primary owner, H&R Block, says it will use the proceeds to introduce new financial products and services.

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New Asian Smart Card Plant

Schlumberger opened a smart card manufacturing facility in Hong Kong. Schlumberger’s new venture – the Hong Kong Cards Industrial Centre is the only complete smart cards manufacturing facility in Asia. At the moment, chip modules or finished cards must be made in Europe or the USA and imported – often adding weeks to projects. Schlumberger’s new factory is located in the Aberdeen district of Hong Kong, with plant and staff capable of manufacturing up to half a million cards per month, initially, and substantial room for expansion.

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