Pay as you go

A UK start-up venture is poised to unveil technology designed to make the mobile phone a safe and convenient method of paying for products and services.

Surrey-based Telsecure claimed its m-commerce system would bring the additional security of smartcard technology to the mobile handset, allowing purchases to be made without fear of confidential credit card information being compromised.

Telsecure has been working with technology development group Generics on technical design and patenting of the system. The company has just begun talks with several financial institutions about using its system, and is due to present it to key industry players in October.

Security concerns are seen as a major barrier to the emerging market for mobile transactions. However, progress on securing phone-based payment has been slowed down by the vast number of parties involved, encompassing mobile phone manufacturers, telecoms network operators, financial institutions and retailers.

Telsecure’s managing director Mike Popham claimed the company’s systems engineers had created a hardware and software infrastructure able to act as a secure gateway for payments. It can operate on existing mobile phone networks and with standard retail electronic point-of-sale systems, he said.

Telsecure said it had also reduced to three the number of steps required to carry out a transaction, eliminating most of the inconvenience for the purchaser and acting as an authorisation terminal inside the mobile. To make a payment users select a credit or debit card option that they have pre-loaded on to their mobile via the Telsecure network. A PIN code and personal information only known to the user are used to authenticate the transaction. No sensitive information is held in the handset itself.

‘The information necessary to carry out fraud will be spread across different areas,’ said Popham. ‘We are acting as a bridge for payment, with several security pillars supporting it. If one of those pillars is not present no information can flow across, and several things need to happen simultaneously for that link to be maintained.’

Popham said the company began research in the area in response to the expected surge in demand for mobile payment. ‘You only have to look around to see how much people rely on their mobiles,’ he said. ‘The public is becoming accustomed to buying from the internet, and the new generation of phones and PDAs will bring the potential major growth in mobile commerce.’

Popham said Telsecure’s payment system could be used for both on and off-line transactions using any type of credit, debit or store card. It could also could have longer-term use in wider mobile banking applications, he said.

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