Ford’s Mobile Wallet TipToes Into IoT Payments

When Ford rolled out its mobile wallet this month, it took to heart the concept of contextual payments, focusing on paying for parking from within the vehicle as well as leasing alternative vehicles. But it's view of mobile was using a smartphone, rather than making the payments automobile-embedded. Although iPhones may weigh much less than two tons, few Apple Pay transactions will work at 80 MPH.

"FordPass, part of Ford’s transformation into an auto and mobility company, aims to do for car owners what iTunes did for music fans," Ford said. "Launching in April, FordPass reimagines the relationship between automaker and consumer. Membership is free—whether you own a Ford vehicle or not—by registering online." *Sigh* It's not a good sign for business when Visa talks about integrating payments in cars and Ford thinks it can accomplish anything with a mobile app on someone else's hardware. It owns the cars and that's where its customers are. Why not place the payments apparatus right there in the car's dashboard, in a place where rivals can't reach?

When Ford rolled out its mobile wallet this month, it took to heart the concept of contextual payments, focusing on paying for parking from within the vehicle as well as leasing alternative vehicles. But it's view of mobile was using a smartphone, rather than making the payments automobile-embedded. Although iPhones may weigh much less than two tons, few Apple Pay transactions will work at 80 MPH.

Patent Wrap: Why Limit POS Communications To Payments?, Wonders MasterCard

This week's wrapup of the latest in payments patent applications and patents issued.

MasterCard: Why Limit POS Communications To Payments? In a U.S. Patent application filed by MasterCard on Jan. 14, the card brand envisioned using POS data connections as a more flexible communication system, with messages going "to an entity that is neither a payment account issuer nor the transaction acquirer."

This week's wrapup of the latest in payments patent applications and patents issued. MasterCard: Why Limit POS Communications To Payments?

Sports Event PF Running Between Processors

Payment Facilitator RunSignup.com is all about trying to take the complexities out of managing running events. It's service and products include means to track times, tracker runners during events, assist with registration and creating customized sites. Making races easy is one thing. Making payments easy is, well, a much more uphill rocky path.

When the company started in 2009, they solely used Braintree to process transactions. As of March 2015, they added Vantiv and it's that Vantiv relationship that turns them into a traditional PF, said RunSignup.com CFO Kevin Harris. The company finds the terms and capabilities of Vantiv more to its liking—referring to its customers, Harris said "We'd like to funnel them all through Vantiv, candidly"—but there's a reason it needs to continue to offer both.

Payment Facilitator RunSignup.com is all about trying to take the complexities out of managing running events. It's service and products include means to track times, tracker runners during events, assist with registration and creating customized sites. Making races easy is one thing. Making payments easy is, well, a much more uphill rocky path.

Can Starbucks Pull A Payments Pied Piper With Musical Mobile Money?

Starbucks is working with Spotify on a music deal, one where Starbucks customers will be able to easily download songs from the Starbucks playlist. Here's the hook: It's a backdoor route to more mobile payments.

Before you dismiss this as too bizarre to have any payments impact, music has had some surprising influences on retail purchases. To be precise, it's not the music itself as much as allowing the shopper to be in control of the music.

Starbucks is working with Spotify on a music deal, one where Starbucks customers will be able to easily download songs from the Starbucks playlist. Here's the hook: It's a backdoor route to more mobile payments.

Carrier Billing’s New Friends May Prove To Be PF Good Fortune

Carrier billing is hardly a new concept, but some coverage has focused on renewed carrier billing efforts from the likes of Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and Google. Part of the reason that carrier billing has not, thus far, gone very far is that most consumers trust their carriers less than a convicted child molester politician. But carrier trust and likability aside, carrier billing has—on paper—a lot going for it. And payment facilitators are uniquely positioned to benefit from this move.

Carrier billing sidesteps some security concerns because the payment details reside with a company that already has them. Although that's certainly not risk-free, it's a zero increase in risk. More precisely, it's less risky than turning over payment credentials to an unknown merchant for a one-time transaction, especially if it's a faceless e-commerce site. From the merchant's perspective, there is the potential for much lower fees as interchange—in the traditional sense—is gone, especially if the consumer pays that carrier bill via check or, much more likely, ACH.

Carrier billing is hardly a new concept, but some coverage has focused on renewed carrier billing efforts from the likes of Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and Google. Part of the reason that carrier billing has not, thus far, gone very far is that most consumers trust their carriers less than a convicted child molester politician. But carrier trust and likability aside, carrier billing has—on paper—a lot going for it. And payment facilitators are uniquely positioned to benefit from this move.

How Obamacare Ushered In PF-Friendly Payments

Payment facilitator Softheon is an old hand at handling healthcare insurance matters, "dating back to the Romneycare days," said Softheon CEO Eugene Sayan. But Softheon these days—contrary to the PF reputation of focusing only on small businesses—works with the biggest of the U.S. insurance companies, processing a healthy percentage of Obamacare health plans, along with quite a few state plans.

What makes Softheon's move especially interesting is that it was able to position a new system for payments on top of a new system for insurance. "We took payment reform and piggybacked it onto healthcare reform," Sayan said. The twist is that when Softheon started with healthcare insurance, payments had almost universally been done by check, with a smattering of direct withdrawals. Using payment cards for insurance premiums was unheard of then. Thanks to Softheon and others, that's no longer true.

Payment facilitator Softheon is an old hand at handling healthcare insurance matters, "dating back to the Romneycare days," said Softheon CEO Eugene Sayan. But Softheon these days—contrary to the PF reputation of focusing only on small businesses—works with the biggest of the U.S. insurance companies, processing a healthy percentage of Obamacare health plans, along with quite a few state plans.

Global Wrap: China’s Ping++ Issues Funding Statement With No Amounts

This week's look at payments around the world takes us to China, Russia, Costa Rica and Canada. Here's something you don't see every day: A funding round news release that somehow opts to not reveal the amount raised. Isn't that the whole point of issuing a funding news release?

That said, this is what Ping++ said said, in its official statement: "Ping++, an integrated payment firm in China, recently announced that it has raised tens of million dollars during its series B round of financing. New investors China Broadband Capital Partners, L.P. (CBC) and Shengjing Technology led this new financing round, which also included the existing investors Sequoia Capital and Linear Ventures. The moneyfrom this round will be used in team expansion, in order to enrich the product line, and further establishment of the base system."

This week's look at payments around the world takes us to China, Russia, Costa Rica and Canada. Here's something you don't see every day: A funding round news release that somehow opts to not reveal the amount raised. Isn't that the whole point of issuing a funding news release?

MasterCard’s Payments-Integrated Fridge Leaves Futurists Cold

When MasterCard used the Consumer Electronic Show on Tuesday (Jan. 5) to unveil its Groceries By MasterCard program, it was an all-too-common payments trend: the introduction of an interesting product with long-term potential, but with the initial version being so limited as to be almost pointless.

The idea behind the Groceries introduction is compelling. The concept is that the card brand would integrate payments deep within Samsung’s new Family Hub refrigerator, a first-class example of the Internet Of Things becoming reality. That is until you start asking questions.

When MasterCard used the Consumer Electronic Show on Tuesday (Jan. 5) to unveil its Groceries By MasterCard program, it was an all-too-common payments trend: the introduction of an interesting product with long-term potential, but with the initial version being so limited as to be almost pointless.

With Lyft Investment, Is GM Getting Out Of The Car Business Or Are Cars Getting Out Of The GM Business?

When Lyft announced on Monday (Jan. 4) that it had just closed a $1 billion round of funding—which included $500 million from General Motors—it struck some as puzzling. Why would an automaker like GM want a big chunk of a car-on-demand service? Did Toyota ever make a huge strategic invest in Yellow Cab? The answer lies in huge imminent changes within the car industry, as it inches its way from a product business to a service business.

The other half-billion came from more traditional investors, with the Kingdom Holding Company dropping $100 million (bringing Kingdom's total Lyft investment to $250 million) and the rest coming from Janus Capital Management, Rakuten, Didi Kuaidi and Alibaba. This all brings Lyft's current valuation to about $5.5 billion. But where's the strategic link between a car-maker and a ride-sharer? That's where things get interesting.

When Lyft announced on Monday (Jan. 4) that it had just closed a $1 billion round of funding—which included $500 million from General Motors—it struck some as puzzling. Why would an automaker like GM want a big chunk of a car-on-demand service? Did Toyota ever make a huge strategic invest in Yellow Cab? The answer lies in huge imminent changes within the car industry, as it inches its way from a product business to a service business.

Apple Envisions P2P In Every Possible Way

With Apple's P2P rollout and partnerships getting closer, it's not surprising that Apple was granted a Patent for the approach last month. But what was not expected was how inclusive and extensive Cupertino envisions P2P being, with the capability integrated into almost every iPhone function.

"It’s clear that Apple is planning to provide an OS-wide payments integration that provides merchants with marketing benefits such as the ability to promote certain deals directly into the OS, such as geo-location based promotions into Maps, or via e-mails or instant messages, all with the ability to compete purchase/pre-order with one click based on Apple Pay enrollment and identity information stored on the device," said Rick Oglesby, a senior analyst with payments consulting firm Double Diamond Group, Oglesby argues that this is the logical next move for Apple, as Apple Pay moves into its second-year year with growing market maturity and acceptance.

With Apple's P2P rollout and partnerships getting closer, it's not surprising that Apple was granted a Patent for the approach last month. But what was not expected was how inclusive and extensive Cupertino envisions P2P being, with the capability integrated into almost every iPhone function.

The Confusing Side Of Chase Pay

When Chase rolled out Chase Pay late last year, it risked customer confusion because it was adding a new payment mechanism to the Chase mobile packages already offered. Chase customers already have a Chase Visa card and, based on Chase’s recommendation, more than a million of those cards are already loaded into Apple Pay. Now Chase Pay will be automatically added to the Chase mobile app that already has 21 million active Chase customers, which guarantees there will be a significant overlap with the users of Apple Pay. The goal of Chase Pay is to have all 21 million Chase customers use Chase Pay with their existing Chase-issued credit, debit, and prepaid cards for in-store payments, which of course means they will need to learn how to use Chase Pay.

Cardholders will retain all the same rewards and consumer protections using Chase Pay as they have with their existing cards. Currently the Chase web site identifies the primary benefit as merchant discounts. But Chase customers that already have Chase cards provisioned into Apple Pay or Android Pay will confront an impossibly confusing choice relative to acceptance. Since Chase Pay will have a limited acceptance footprint that is different than the limited footprint associated with the NFC-based competitors, it strikes Mercator that a customer will simply become even more unsure what mobile app is accepted at which merchant locations and will revert instead to the tried and true physical card.

When Chase rolled out Chase Pay late last year, it risked customer confusion because it was adding a new payment mechanism to the Chase mobile packages already offered. Chase customers already have a Chase Visa card and, based on Chase’s recommendation, more than a million of those cards are already loaded into Apple Pay. Now Chase Pay will be automatically added to the Chase mobile app that already has 21 million active Chase customers, which guarantees there will be a significant overlap with the users of Apple Pay. The goal of Chase Pay is to have all 21 million Chase customers use Chase Pay with their existing Chase-issued credit, debit, and prepaid cards for in-store payments, which of course means they will need to learn how to use Chase Pay.

Why Are Merchants So Afraid Of Mobile Payments?

With all of the hoopla surrounding mobile payments, there is often little attention paid to the pragmatic obstacles faced by retailers in the field. And those obstacles are causing a river of fear, loathing and more fear among merchants when they consider mobile payments. Today, the ease in which a customer can order a pizza is becoming almost as important as the recipe for the sauce. But when it comes to mobile, it's all about ordering, loyalty, and offers—pretty much everything but payment. Why is payment not top of mind? From the chain’s perspective, it's an ugly topics about increased costs and added complexities. For many of my restaurant clients, mobile payments cause more problems than it solves.

Let's not beat around the bush: there is loathing among the restaurant industry when it comes to payment card processing and the associated costs. They still are angry about EMV. I am constantly being asked what can be done with technology to reduce or mitigate these costs. "Can the delivery driver swipe a card at the customer's door? Will that help? If the customer orders online, but picks up their pizza in the restaurant, can we just authorize the transaction online and then cancel it and re-do it in the restaurant to get a card present rate? Can we look at alternative forms of payment that will reduce our overall payment processing costs?" And while these are all good ideas, each one comes with technical and operational challenges that are non-trivial and, in some cases, can make the situation worse than before.

With all of the hoopla surrounding mobile payments, there is often little attention paid to the pragmatic obstacles faced by retailers in the field. And those obstacles are causing a river of fear, loathing and more fear among merchants when they consider mobile payments. Today, the ease in which a customer can order a pizza is becoming almost as important as the recipe for the sauce. But when it comes to mobile, it's all about ordering, loyalty, and offers—pretty much everything but payment. Why is payment not top of mind? From the chain’s perspective, it's an ugly topics about increased costs and added complexities. For many of my restaurant clients, mobile payments cause more problems than it solves.

Payment Patent Package: Using Beacons To Shrewdly Choose Checkout Lanes

This week's holiday-theme gragbag of payments patents and patents pending focuses on privacy—and why no one should have it. PayPal was issued a Patent on Tuesday (Jan. 5) for a way to use retailer-based wireless beacons to calculate how much a shopper is buying and to then send them to the best checkout lane. It may or may not be the best lane for that shopper, but it will be the best to move the greatest number of customers out as quickly as possible. The patent argued that the good of the many outweighs the good of the few.

"At various merchant locations, such as a merchant's retail store, a user may browse items and/or services for sale from the merchant and select various items/services for purchase from the merchant. These items/services may be grouped in areas together, such as a produce or bakery of a shopping market or a computers or televisions section of an electronics store. Based on the amount of items/services purchased, the user may spend a different amount of time completing a checkout and payment. For example, purchasing one bag of apples may be very quick; however, purchasing enough vegetables, meat, condiments, and hamburger buns for a barbeque may take a considerably larger amount of time," the Patent said.

This week's holiday-theme gragbag of payments patents and patents pending focuses on privacy—and why no one should have it. PayPal was issued a Patent on Tuesday (Jan. 5) for a way to use retailer-based wireless beacons to calculate how much a shopper is buying and to then send them to the best checkout lane. It may or may not be the best lane for that shopper, but it will be the best to move the greatest number of customers out as quickly as possible. The patent argued that the good of the many outweighs the good of the few.

Global Wrap: Visa Europe Falling Out Of Love With Bitcoin

In Visa Europe's end-of-the-year payments wrap, it went out of its way to indicate that when it comes to virtual currencies, the Euro cardbrand has a roving eye.

"When 2015 arrived, a lot of innovation chatter in Fintech focused on Bitcoin, but as we leave the year, that focus has shifted substantially to the blockchain. If we think back to how it was perceived a year ago and then how it is understood today, it’s clear that another transformation is happening," the Visa Europe post said. "2015 has turned blockchain into something the industry has to live with. It is no longer a choice anymore. Recent news speculating about the identity of its creator and the formalisation of virtual money as a commodity, just makes it more real than ever before."

In Visa Europe's end-of-the-year payments wrap, it went out of its way to indicate that when it comes to virtual currencies, the Euro cardbrand has a roving eye.

Global Wrap: Russia Offers Card Brand Alternative, Citi Guts Loyalty Benefits In Australia

This week's reports—from Russia, Taiwan, Australia, China, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Canada— show the continued shifts in payments strategies across the globe.

Russian Banks Issue First Payment Alternative To Visa, MasterCard. The move on Tuesday (Dec. 15) reveals the Mir card, which translates to "peace," "world" and "Bite me, U.S. card brands." According to a story in The Rakyat Post, Mir was issued "by a string of banks, among them Gazprombank, Rossiya bank and others blacklisted by the West following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine last year."

This week's reports—from Russia, Taiwan, Australia, China, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Canada— show the continued shifts in payments strategies across the globe.

Deloitte: Ignorance Isn’t Bliss. It’s Killing Mobile Payments

On Wednesday (Dec. 9), Deloitte released a major mobile report and concluded that mobile payments is suffering from a payments industry self-inflicted wound: an almost criminal lack of shopper and store associate education about mobile payments.

This is one of those good news/bad news situations. The good news is if the payments industry leaders act smart, this problem can not only be solved, but reversed. Consumer and store employee education will sharply boost mobile payments usage—and that will on top of a continual influx of new mobile shoppers as more people upgrade to NFC-friendly smartphones. The bad news is—when was the last time you saw a lot of payments industry leaders acting smart?

On Wednesday (Dec. 9), Deloitte released a major mobile report and concluded that mobile payments is suffering from a payments industry self-inflicted wound: an almost criminal lack of shopper and store associate education about mobile payments.

Gift Cards Are Soaring. Keep Gifting, But For Heavens Sake, Stop Carding

A report released Tuesday (Dec. 8) projected U.S. gift card spend will hit $130 billion in 2015, an increase of more than six percent compared with last year. The stats from the ninth annual CEB TowerGroup report were hardly surprising, so why note it? Is it time the industry seriously considering changing the name of gift cards?

The stored value mechanisms are increasingly likely to be digital. And unlike their payment card counterparts—which even in Apple Pay appear as pictures of their plastic rectangular historical selves—the so-called giftcards are running away from their plastic ancestry. And run quickly they should. The next step will be P2P transactions, with a parent or a friend zapping someone $100 that can only be spent at Walgreens. Shortly after that, the gift transaction might be limited to not a specific store, but to a product category. Why? Let's say a parent is sending money to a college-attending offspring and wants the money going to grocery fruits and vegetables and not beer and music.

A report released Tuesday (Dec. 8) projected U.S. gift card spend will hit $130 billion in 2015, an increase of more than six percent compared with last year. The stats from the ninth annual CEB TowerGroup report were hardly surprising, so why note it? Is it time the industry seriously considering changing the name of gift cards?

SamsungPay Admits It Won’t Deliver Wearable Payments Until Next Year

Just what the world of mobile payments needs to boost consumer confidence: Missed delivery deadlines. In a Tweet reply to a consumer, SamsungMobile US has confirmed that SamsungPay didn't make its November '15 promised U.S. payment support for the wearable GearS2 smartwatch. The Tweet apologized for the delay—without explaining its cause—and promised that SamsungPay will happen "in 2016. Stay tuned for more information."

This is especially problematic given that Samsung pushed the payments capabilities as it sold those watches. The fallout from this delay doesn't only hurt Samsung. When an industry segment is as young as mobile payments, we can't afford these kinds of delays. Why is it so damaging? Mobile payments demand a change in behavior, which is hard enough on its own. But what happens when those watch owners get frustrated by their inability to make payments? It will feed their fears that mobile payments really doesn't work and that it's too risky an experiment with which to entrust their hard-earned money.

Just what the world of mobile payments needs to boost consumer confidence: Missed delivery deadlines. In a Tweet reply to a consumer, SamsungMobile US has confirmed that SamsungPay didn't make its November '15 promised U.S. payment support for the wearable GearS2 smartwatch. The Tweet apologized for the delay—without explaining its cause—and promised that SamsungPay will happen "in 2016. Stay tuned for more information."

Payment Patent Potpourri: MasterCard Wants To Combine Purchase History With Police Files

Patents and Patent Pendings issued give a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, strategies and possible future product plans of payments company executives. Although many issued patents never morph into products, someone thought the idea was worth preserving as an option.

But it can also include plenty of "What the heck were they smoking?" ideas. This week's batch of Patents and Patent Pendings—from Visa, MasterCard, Paypal and eBay—doesn't disappoint.

Patents and Patent Pendings issued give a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, strategies and possible future product plans of payments company executives. Although many issued patents never morph into products, someone thought the idea was worth preserving as an option. But it can also include plenty of "What the heck were they smoking?" ideas. This week's batch of Patents and Patent Pendings—from Visa, MasterCard, Paypal and eBay—doesn't disappoint.

Global Wrap: In Australia, MC Exec Lashes Out At Apple/Amex Deal

This week's global payments report has investments from Mexico, India and the U.K., an Australian cyber currency IPO delayed for the fifth time, a Canadian Amex small merchant initiative and a MasterCard exec lashing out at the Apple/Amex deal in Australia.

There's more fallout from Apple's decision to launch in Australia (and Canada, for that matter) only with American Express cards. This time, it's from a MasterCard exec crying foul, arguing that regulators take a more lax regulatory position with Amex than with other card brands. Eddie Grobler, division president of MasterCard Australasia, said "Apple Pay launching in Australia with Amex proprietary cards was a symptom of its ability to charge merchants much higher fees than Visa or MasterCard and therefore having much fatter margins to share with Apple, which has been demanding a cut of the fees paid to banks before allowing them onto Apple Pay."

This week's global payments report has investments from Mexico, India and the U.K., an Australian cyber currency IPO delayed for the fifth time, a Canadian Amex small merchant initiative and a MasterCard exec lashing out at the Apple/Amex deal in Australia.

RentMoola Deal Signals Major Upheaval In The Rental World

In the world of payment facilitators, it's hard to envision a segment more in need of payments updates than apartment rentals—one of the last nature preserves for the American Check. A deal announced on Tuesday (Dec. 1) between RentMoola and MasterCard is a very optimistic sign.

The deal itself is simple, but the potential implications are anything but. The deal positions MasterCard as RentMoola's preferred payment brand in the U.S. and Canada, which that tenants and condo owners get an unspecified preferred rate "as well as (again, unspecified) rewards with exclusive offers." This arrangement will include MasterPass "in early 2016," which presumably means any time before July. Replacing checks with payment cards is a step in the right direction, but where rental payments can really shake things up is when the process bypasses the landlord.

In the world of payment facilitators, it's hard to envision a segment more in need of payments updates than apartment rentals—one of the last nature preserves for the American Check. A deal announced on Tuesday (Dec. 1) between RentMoola and MasterCard is a very optimistic sign.

Amex Quietly Shuts Down Its Small Biz Saturday Credit Offers

For the last five years, American Express has championed its Small Business Saturday campaign the day after Black Friday, an attempt to get shoppers to refocus their attention on small local businesses. But this year, it quietly dropped a credit it gave to shoppers who participated (the amounts varied, but it was $30 last year).

Amex confirmed that it halted the incentives and said that it had replaced the cash with other program elements. Amex spokesperson Sravanthi Agrawal listed some of what they are doing instead of issuing the credits. The small business initiative is a very good idea, but when trying to persuade shoppers to change their retail habits, there is little—nay, there is nothing—more effective than a direct cash credit. No number of Neighborhood Campion programs or community events is going to be nearly as persuasive as a $30 credit going directly to the shopper.

For the last five years, American Express has championed its Small Business Saturday campaign the day after Black Friday, an attempt to get shoppers to refocus their attention on small local businesses. But this year, it quietly dropped a credit it gave to shoppers who participated (the amounts varied, but it was $30 last year).

Payment Patent Potpourri: PayPal and MasterCard Get Creative On Authentication, Plus Can Thunder Predict Transactions?

The U.S. Patent Office has been busy approving some wacky payment ideas and we're going to periodically tell you about some of our favorites. The winners this week are two unrelated ideas on mobile-based authentication from PayPal and MasterCard—including the length of a shopper's finger, how they walk and bits of their voice conversations—plus a MasterCard idea on exploring weather-to-purchase correlations on an individualized basis.

This Patent, issued on Tuesday (Dec. 1), is based on the length of a consumer's finger in a secondary fashion. What it actually does is ask the user to create a specific drawing, a task that will be done in a unique way by consumers because of their hand designs and other factors.

The U.S. Patent Office has been busy approving some wacky payment ideas and we're going to periodically tell you about some of our favorites. The winners this week are two unrelated ideas on mobile-based authentication from PayPal and MasterCard—including the length of a shopper's finger, how they walk and bits of their voice conversations—plus a MasterCard idea on exploring weather-to-purchase correlations on an individualized basis.

Use Apple Pay, Get Free Rides On The London Underground

The only viable long-term way to get shoppers to change their preferred payments method is to give them a reason to do so. Whether that's a discount for using NFC rather than plastic or greenbacks, coupons/discounts that are only available using a specific payment method or some other perk, consumers need to get something concrete. This is the bulk of the message that MCX is screaming. Someone at Apple is paying attention.

With its U.K. rollout, MasterCard announced free Apple Pay travel days until the end of the year, but only on Mondays. Technically, the fares aren't free but riders will have those fares reimbursed. "Customers can travel on Tube, buses, tram, DLR, London Overground and most National Rail services in London," said a MasterCard statement. "From a standing start to today, over 220 million journeys have been made using contactless bank cards and devices with over one million contactless journeys made every day. Currently, contactless journeys made across all modes make up nearly 25 percent of pay as you go journeys." More to the point, though, those contactless payments have generated non-travel contactless payments.

The only viable long-term way to get shoppers to change their preferred payments method is to give them a reason to do so. Whether that's a discount for using NFC rather than plastic or greenbacks, coupons/discounts that are only available using a specific payment method or some other perk, consumers need to get something concrete. This is the bulk of the message that MCX is screaming. Someone at Apple is paying attention.

Global Wrap: WeChat Unveils Overseas Social Payments, The Importance Of Amex In Australia

The first week of December shows a lot more international payments activity, with this week's news spotlighting shifts in Australia, China, the Netherlands, Africa and Germany.

When Apple Pay was launched in Australia last month, the fact that only Amex cards were supported was unusual. (And statements from MasterCard that cash in Australia is losing to mobile and contactless raised more questions than they answered.) But some of the explanations for that situation are now becoming clear.

The first week of December shows a lot more international payments activity, with this week's news spotlighting shifts in Australia, China, the Netherlands, Africa and Germany.

WeChat Cuts Global Money Transfer Deal With Western Union

In a deal that could make Tencent-owned social media platform WeChat into a serious payments player, WeChat announced Tuesday (Nov. 17) a deal with Western Union that allows WeChat's U.S. users to send money cross-border to 200 countries and territories, all while riding Western Union's rails.

With conflicting laws, industry regulations and security concerns, simplified global money transfers has been a top PF priority. "Consumers are able to fund the money transfer utilizing a debit card, credit card or bank account and easily direct the funds to a Western Union retail agent location around the world, and to a mobile wallet or bank account where available," said a joint statement from WeChat and Western Union. "WeChat together with its sister product Weixin in China had over 650 million of monthly active user accounts at end of September 2015."

In a deal that could make Tencent-owned social media platform WeChat into a serious payments player, WeChat announced Tuesday (Nov. 17) a deal with Western Union that allows WeChat's U.S. users to send money cross-border to 200 countries and territories, all while riding Western Union's rails.

MasterCard Thinks It Can Standardize Mobile Loyalty. And It Might Be Right

For mobile payments to move into the massive adoption phase, some version of loyalty/couponing will be essential. Otherwise, once the novelty wears off, there are simply no sustainable reasons for shoppers to stick with mobile. But with every mobile player preparing to somehow push loyalty, the chance of having conflicting incompatible technology is all-but-certain. Can MasterCard change that?

On Tuesday (Nov. 17), the number two card brand introduced a loyalty middleware specification that it hopes will be adopted widely enough to give mobile loyalty a chance to grow seamlessly. Given that few if any mobile payment schemes will be offered without support for at least one issuer's MasterCard, the card brand seems a sufficiently politically neutral player to sidestep the usual vendor resistance. In MasterCard's statement, the brand said it's proposed specification "enables mobile applications to offer a seamless connection between payment, promotions and loyalty redemption. It enables consumers to select their loyalty card, the coupons/promotions they want to redeem, and make a payment in a single or double tap at a contactless terminal."

For mobile payments to move into the massive adoption phase, some version of loyalty/couponing will be essential. Otherwise, once the novelty wears off, there are simply no sustainable reasons for shoppers to stick with mobile. But with every mobile player preparing to somehow push loyalty, the chance of having conflicting incompatible technology is all-but-certain. Can MasterCard change that?

Transit Mobile Payment Is A PF Dream Come True

On Monday (Nov. 16), San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee officially brought his city's public transit system into the mobile payment era, following similar moves by cities across the globe. Just last month, the totality of London's black cabs said that they will accept mobile payment.

These efforts are crucial for the payment facilitator community as nowhere is the need for the speed and convenience of mobile payments more needed than in urban public transit. Of potentially greater significance are the huge volumes of consumers that are using such systems—and the extreme tendency of such communities to get comfort from what other travelers are doing. In short, successful transportation trials have a far greater chance of meaningfully moving the acceptance needle than almost any other vertical. As much as coffee shops may gravitate to every kind of mobile payment imaginable, they simply don't have the volume—nor the copycat psychology—that comes with the transportation territory.

On Monday (Nov. 16), San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee officially brought his city's public transit system into the mobile payment era, following similar moves by cities across the globe. Just last month, the totality of London's black cabs said that they will accept mobile payment. These efforts are crucial for the payment facilitator community as nowhere is the need for the speed and convenience of mobile payments more needed than in urban public transit.

NYC Mobile Banking Study: Underbanked Much More Likely To Accept Texts

A new mobile banking analysis just published by New York City government officials found that underbanked consumers were more likely to use text or e-mail alerts as well as engage in more frequent money transfers. But those underbanked were also the most concerned about financial data privacy.

"The unbanked were more likely to share their mobile phones than the banked and underbanked. The way in which respondents reported paying for their mobile phones also differed across banking status: the banked were much more likely than the underbanked and unbanked to report having a monthly contract for their phone, while the unbanked and the underbanked reported using prepaid cell phones at much greater rates than the banked," the report said. "Banked smartphone users were more likely to have iPhones, while underbanked and unbanked smartphone users were more likely to have Android phones."

A new mobile banking analysis just published by New York City government officials found that underbanked consumers were more likely to use text or e-mail alerts as well as engage in more frequent money transfers. But those underbanked were also the most concerned about financial data privacy.

Square Sets IPO Price At $9, Far Below Expectations

When Square's IPO launches Thursday (Nov. 19) morning, it will start off seeking $9/share, which values the company at $2.66 billion, half of where it had valued a year ago. Even its IPO prospectus had estimated a range of $11-$13. Square is arguably the industry's best-known payment facilitator.

"It’s a signal that Square will face a challenge when it finally goes public," noted TechCrunch. "Square’s pricing — below its previous valuation — is one of many instances of valuations being written down among late-stage startups." Fair or not—FYI, it's not—Square is facing Wall Street analysts who need to pigeonhole Square direct competitors. But the Square business model, size and customer based is sufficiently unusual that there really are no like-for-like rivals.<

When Square's IPO launches Thursday (Nov. 19) morning, it will start off seeking $9/share, which values the company at $2.66 billion, half of where it had valued a year ago. Even its IPO prospectus had estimated a range of $11-$13. Square is arguably the industry's best-known payment facilitator.

Global Wrap: European Parliament Insisting On Mobile Payment Standards

The global payments space was brimming with activity this week, as next month's holidays loom ever closer.

Three major Thailand mobile operators—Advanced Info Service (AIS), Total Access Communication (DTAC) and True Move—have struck a deal that is supposed to allow consumers to easily transfer money amongst the group starting Dec. 1. All users need do is key in the receiver's mobile number. No bank account details needed.

The global payments space was brimming with activity this week, as next month's holidays loom ever closer.

We Won’t Publish The Week Of Nov. 23, For Thanksgiving

In observation of the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, PaymentFacilitator.com will not publish the week of Nov. 23, either on our sites or in our weekly newsletter.

We will be back the first week of December with all of the news that PFs need, along with a few extra goodies as we unveil some new editorial features and prepare to launch our podcast series.

In observation of the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, PaymentFacilitator.com will not publish the week of Nov. 23, either on our sites or in our weekly newsletter. We will be back the first week of December with all of the news that PFs need, along with a few extra goodies as we unveil some new editorial features and prepare to launch our podcast series.

Wall Street Loves Comparisons, Which Is Why Square Is Driving It Crazy

As PF extraordinaire Square begins its IPO perp walk (aka roadshow), it is seeing consumer media criticism (such as this piece from USA Today) that its numbers are not as strong as so-called contemporaries. The problem is Square's business model and execution approach is truly different, so much so that there are hardly any comparably-sized companies that are apples-to-apples comparisons—and certainly none that are already publicly-held.This concern is oft-cited by startups who claim to have no competitors, but with Square, the differences are much more significant.

Rick Oglesby, a senior analyst with payments consulting firm Double Diamond Group and a longtime tracker of Square, said he was concerned about the influence exerted by comparisons like the ones USA Today made."This article keeps talking about tech companies and, if that’s the benchmark, then it probably isn’t that pretty. But if the benchmark is payments companies, Square is very pretty," Oglesby said. "This is not a Facebook or a Twitter, but relative to the competitors listed in the article—which aren’t really even competitors—I’ll take Square."

As PF extraordinaire Square begins its IPO perp walk (aka roadshow), it is seeing consumer media criticism (such as this piece from USA Today) that its numbers are not as strong as so-called contemporaries. The problem is Square's business model and execution approach is truly different, so much so that there are hardly any comparably-sized companies that are apples-to-apples comparisons—and certainly none that are already publicly-held.

Samsung Pay’s Encryption Perception Problem

It seems a funny thing has happened on the way to using Samsung Pay for some users, as the emerging mobile payments platform isn't compatible with a phone’s encryption protocol. Simply stated: if the phone is switched into encrypted mode (as many who use their phones for work are required to do), users can’t add cards to their Samsung Pay wallet.

This isn't going over well. Although it's not yet clear if this encryption conniption is a glitch or intentional, either way it is sending a positively terrible message to users about Samsung Pay and security. Not requiring a user to activate phone encryption is one thing, but refusing new payment credentials if it's already been activated is very different.

It seems a funny thing has happened on the way to using Samsung Pay for some users, as the emerging mobile payments platform isn't compatible with a phone’s encryption protocol. Simply stated: if the phone is switched into encrypted mode (as many who use their phones for work are required to do), users can’t add cards to their Samsung Pay wallet. This isn't going over well. Although it's not yet clear if this encryption conniption is a glitch or intentional, either way it is sending a positively terrible message to users about Samsung Pay and security.

Apple Wants Into P2P Payments, Talking With Chase, CapOne, Wells Fargo, U.S. Bancorp

In an attempt to control as much consumer payments as possible, Apple is in negotiations with J.P. Morgan Chase, Capital One, Wells Fargo and U.S. Bancorp to launch a bank-account-based P2P payments service, according to a Wednesday report in The Wall Street Journal. If successful, it's value would be huge to Apple, but not on a per-transaction fee basis. The goldmine would be the data, the equivalent of knowing every check, money transfer and payment card transaction made by millions of its customers.

Beyond the privacy implications of a consumer goods company having so much consumer personal data—on top of whatever health data is being gathered through Apple's Health app—there are also security concerns. The more avenues of access that exist into a bank account, the more chances there are for a glitch to withdraw more than expected or for the ultra-sensitive bank account routing numbers to leak where a cyberthief could see it.

In an attempt to control as much consumer payments as possible, Apple is in negotiations with J.P. Morgan Chase, Capital One, Wells Fargo and U.S. Bancorp to launch a bank-account-based P2P payments service, according to a Wednesday report in The Wall Street Journal. If successful, it's value would be huge to Apple, but not on a per-transaction fee basis. The goldmine would be the data, the equivalent of knowing every check, money transfer and payment card transaction made by millions of its customers.

Visa: Huge Changes For Payments In IoT, Where Context Is King

The imminent Internet of Things (IoT) world—where every watch, car, thermostat, refrigerator, shopping cart and television talk with each other, and everything else—could have a huge impact on PF payments. But, as Jonathan Vaux, Visa's innovation director, recently said, it's really all about context.

Current payment methods (payment cards, whether still in plastic or in a mobile device, cash and even checks) are all about paying for anything anywhere. That's certainly fine and will always be needed—Vaux goes out of his way to defend cash, which he correctly argues isn't going away anytime soon—but there is a huge allure for shoppers to make purchases they are in-context.

The imminent Internet of Things (IoT) world—where every watch, car, thermostat, refrigerator, shopping cart and television talk with each other, and everything else—could have a huge impact on PF payments. But, as Jonathan Vaux, Visa's innovation director, recently said, it's really all about context.

Global Wrap: Nambia Launches A New National Payments System

Payments developments around the globe has mobile commerce taking off across southeast Asia, card swipe fees and surcharges on the hotseat in Australia and New Zealand, foreign card players are facing an easier than expected time entering Chinese marketplaces while PayTM is pushing hard for its Payment Bank in India.
Payments developments around the globe has mobile commerce taking off across southeast Asia, card swipe fees and surcharges on the hotseat in Australia and New Zealand, foreign card players are facing an easier than expected time entering Chinese marketplaces while PayTM is pushing hard for its Payment Bank in India.

Why Home Improvement Chains Make The Most Natural PFs

One of the most natural places for a payment facilitator is within a do-it-yourself home improvement chain. The chains already attract plumbers, electricians, masons and every other kind of contractor, almost all of whom have to sell their services—in effect, reselling that chain's products in something akin to a value-added reseller (VAR)—to consumers. Most importantly, those consumers want convenient ways to pay, which is rarely something contractors offer—but the home improvement chains but are interacting with does.

Home Depot is already toying with this model, but a recent announcement from Lowe's makes this PF model almost irresistible.

One of the most natural places for a payment facilitator is within a do-it-yourself home improvement chain. The chains already attract plumbers, electricians, masons and every other kind of contractor, almost all of whom have to sell their services—in effect, reselling that chain's products in something akin to a value-added reseller (VAR)—to consumers. Most importantly, those consumers want convenient ways to pay, which is rarely something contractors offer—but the home improvement chains but are interacting with does.

Can Candor And A Payments Card Launch Co-Exist?

Even in payments, a little candor can go a long way, especially in public CEO statements about issuing a new kind of payments card. This comes from a British company called Mondo, which is about generate MasterCard Prepaid Debit cards issued by Wirecard Card Solutions, which is a payment facilitator as well as being a prepaid issuer.

Still, it's not often that a payments CEO pledges that customers will have headaches—and yet Mondo CEO Tom Blomfield did just that when introducing the Alpha version of his card.

Even in payments, a little candor can go a long way, especially in public CEO statements about issuing a new kind of payments card. This comes from a British company called Mondo, which is about generate MasterCard Prepaid Debit cards issued by Wirecard Card Solutions, which is a payment facilitator as well as being a prepaid issuer.

Amazon Shuts Down Local Register, Having Never Really Loved It Anyway

For the world's largest e-commerce company, Amazon certainly had a busy payments week this week, from opening a physical bookstore integrating online capabilities to pushing its Amazon button for third-party mobile apps. But it's most PF noteworthy move this week was Amazon's choice to give up on Local Register.

Local Register was a payments processing effort that focused on the exact kind of smaller merchant that has gravitated to Square. And Amazon's initial promotional pricing was set lower than Square, on the rationale that price is everything for a small merchant. Apparently not.

For the world's largest e-commerce company, Amazon certainly had a busy payments week this week, from opening a physical bookstore integrating online capabilities to pushing its Amazon button for third-party mobile apps. But it's most PF noteworthy move this week was Amazon's choice to give up on Local Register.

The Reunification of Visa/Visa Europe Could Be Good News For PFs And Compliance

When Visa announced Monday (Nov. 2) that it was dropping $23.3 billion to reunite with Visa Europe after the pair functioned as independent companies for eight years, it had a great deal of significance to the PF community. Given the extreme difference in rules between the U.S. payments standards and the European Union, it has been challenging for Visa to deliver global consistency, especially with compliance.

Payment facilitators, for example, can become payment service providers "without the help of a bank, something that cannot happen here" in the U.S., said Deana Rich, president of Rich Consulting and also Partner/Director of Strategy for PaymentFacilitator.com. "Also, EU can be a little more lax on some compliance issues. So, once the dust settles, it will be easier for Visa to level set the Core Rules playing field. Visa often has different rules for different regions, but the EU is drastically different in places. Visa may now be able to tighten up a few things in the EU. Or, maybe, just maybe, learn from the EU and loosen a few things up here (in the U.S.). I believe the former is much more likely."

When Visa announced Monday (Nov. 2) that it was dropping $23.3 billion to reunite with Visa Europe after the pair functioned as independent companies for eight years, it had a great deal of significance to the PF community. Given the extreme difference in rules between the U.S. payments standards and the European Union, it has been challenging for Visa to deliver global consistency, especially with compliance.

Wall Street Vs. Silicon Valley: There’s A New PF Lobbyist In Town

In a payment facilitator-focused fight that could be painted as Wall Street lobbyists against Silicon Valley lobbyists, a tech group—consisting of Amazon, Apple, Google, Intuit and PayPal—has created a payments lobbying group solely designed to counter the influence of traditional financial players, including Visa, MasterCard, Amex, Chase and Citibank. The group announced its formation on Tuesday (Nov. 3).

The new group calls itself Financial Innovation Now (FIN) and argues that it wants to persuade politicians to go a different route. Complicating matters is the diversity of the FIN group. The concerns of Amazon, Apple and Google, for example, are aligned, in that they are major financial players in retail, hardware, mobile and search engines that are exploring payments initiatives, initiatives that are likely to remain secondary to their primary revenue lines. But PayPal and Intuit are much more closely involved in financial services, with PayPal being every bit as much of a pure payments player as Visa.

In a payment facilitator-focused fight that could be painted as Wall Street lobbyists against Silicon Valley lobbyists, a tech group—consisting of Amazon, Apple, Google, Intuit and PayPal—has created a payments lobbying group solely designed to counter the influence of traditional financial players, including Visa, MasterCard, Amex, Chase and Citibank. The group announced its formation on Tuesday (Nov. 3).

Global Roundup: Why Don’t Egyptians Like Mobile Payments?

In this week's wrap of global payments developments, we have payment stats from Egypt that are more lack-of-payment stats, U.K. payments security testing, a Swedish payments spin-off and a new mobile bill pay push in Australia.
In this week's wrap of global payments developments, we have payment stats from Egypt that are more lack-of-payment stats, U.K. payments security testing, a Swedish payments spin-off and a new mobile bill pay push in Australia.

MCX Finally Gets Its Interchange Break—After Chase Hands It To Them

When JPMorgan Chase on Monday (Oct. 26) promised new mobile capabilities for its online Chase Pay program next summer, it chose to take a decidedly retailer-oriented approach. With the lures of lower interchange fees plus all of the fraud cost protections of the EMV liability shift without having to accept EMV, Chase has given retailers concrete reasons to push Chase Pay over other payment methods.

The Chase announcement named MCX (and specifically members Walmart, Target, Best Buy and Shell) as premier partner. Interestingly, the interchange reduction effort that caused MCX to form years ago but had been all but abandoned by the group recently is the centerpiece of Chase's 2016 plans. What MCX couldn't get on their own was handed to them by Chase.

When JPMorgan Chase on Monday (Oct. 26) promised new mobile capabilities for its online Chase Pay program next summer, it chose to take a decidedly retailer-oriented approach. With the lures of lower interchange fees plus all of the fraud cost protections of the EMV liability shift without having to accept EMV, Chase has given retailers concrete reasons to push Chase Pay over other payment methods.

The Chase announcement named MCX (and specifically members Walmart, Target, Best Buy and Shell) as premier partner. Interestingly, the interchange reduction effort that caused MCX to form years ago but had been all but abandoned by the group recently is the centerpiece of Chase's 2016 plans. What MCX couldn't get on their own was handed to them by Chase.

PF Magic: Square Is $150m In The Red, But Still Worth Billions

If you’re still not convinced of the power of the PF model, prepare to be so. Square, perhaps the leading payment facilitator, with 2 million active customers, has finally made it’s financials public via its S-1 filing, and its losses are staggering.

How could this company have attracted private valuations in excess of US$6 billion? Simple: by being a great company with a great plan in an emerging market. Despite being on target to accumulate half a billion in losses in a four-year period, it is a robust business, with solid management on the brink of profitability. Its losses do not result from negative business factors, but rather because management is so excited by its opportunities that it is taking a Amazon-esque approach, forgoing short-term profits to invest in its many future opportunities. One should view the magnitude of the losses not as a negative, but rather as indicative of the magnitude of the opportunity.

If you’re still not convinced of the power of the PF model, prepare to be so. Square, perhaps the leading payment facilitator, with 2 million active customers, has finally made it’s financials public via its S-1 filing, and its losses are staggering.

Welcome To Your New Home For Payment Facilitator News You Can Use

Welcome to PaymentFacilitator.com, your home for an independent and analytical take on the payments issues of concern for the PF community. For our take on the major changes impacting payment facilitators and why this editorial community is needed right now, please drop by our About Us page.

It seems, though, this Letter From The Editor is best used to not promise what we'll deliver in the near future, but to tell you what we are delivering to you right now and why those pieces have the information that you're simply not going to find elsewhere today, especially from the various payments media.

Welcome to PaymentFacilitator.com, your home for an independent and analytical take on the payments issues of concern for the PF community. For our take on the major changes impacting payment facilitators and why this editorial community is needed right now, please drop by our About Us page.

It seems, though, this Letter From The Editor is best used to not promise what we'll deliver in the near future, but to tell you what we are delivering to you right now and why those pieces have the information that you're simply not going to find elsewhere today, especially from the various payments media.

The Non-Intuitive World Of Authentication And Social Media

A cyberthief walks into a bank branch, fully prepared to impersonate his intended high-net-worth victim. Not only is he equipped with fake IDs in the victim's name, lots of personal information courtesy of social and search engine research, but the thief has even taken the precaution of breaking into his victim's social accounts and replacing his thief-like face for the victim's on the victim's own social sites. If anyone tries to check on the Facebook or LinkedIn site of the victim, the thief's face would be confirmed.

The banker in this case sits beneath a tiny video camera, one that is aimed at the seat where customers sit and specifically the facial area of those customers. Controls of the banker-facing screen allow the image to be precisely aimed for customers of varying heights. And while the banker is pitching her safe-deposit boxes and other bank services, software does a quick check on the thief's face. Sure enough, it matches the social media images—but the software notes that those images were all recently changed. The software's database maintains a record of the last 10 images of everyone it can find—and that history of images foiled our thief's efforts.

A cyberthief walks into a bank branch, fully prepared to impersonate his intended high-net-worth victim. Not only is he equipped with fake IDs in the victim's name, lots of personal information courtesy of social and search engine research, but the thief has even taken the precaution of breaking into his victim's social accounts and replacing his thief-like face for the victim's on the victim's own social sites. If anyone tries to check on the Facebook or LinkedIn site of the victim, the thief's face would be confirmed.

The banker in this case sits beneath a tiny video camera, one that is aimed at the seat where customers sit and specifically the facial area of those customers. Controls of the banker-facing screen allow the image to be precisely aimed for customers of varying heights. And while the banker is pitching her safe-deposit boxes and other bank services, software does a quick check on the thief's face. Sure enough, it matches the social media images—but the software notes that those images were all recently changed. The software's database maintains a record of the last 10 images of everyone it can find—and that history of images foiled our thief's efforts.

Financial Futility: Why Chip & PIN Sucks For Small Merchants

Given the huge importance of small merchants in the U.S. (especially one-location shops, which account for overwhelmingly more retail locations than any other merchant size segment), it's impressive how little attention has been paid to how inappropriate chip and PIN is for those merchants.

In the wake of the U.S. EMV liability shift that kicked in on October 1, there’s been no shortage of debate about Chip and PIN vs. Chip and Signature. Once again, our old friend, the Durbin Amendment, is having its say. And for all the high-minded security-oriented thoughts being dished out, along with the many biased special interests trying to influence the debate, the small and micro-merchant have been left out, as usual.

Given the huge importance of small merchants in the U.S. (especially one-location shops, which account for overwhelmingly more retail locations than any other merchant size segment), it's impressive how little attention has been paid to how inappropriate chip and PIN is for those merchants.

In the wake of the U.S. EMV liability shift that kicked in on October 1, there’s been no shortage of debate about Chip and PIN vs. Chip and Signature. Once again, our old friend, the Durbin Amendment, is having its say. And for all the high-minded security-oriented thoughts being dished out, along with the many biased special interests trying to influence the debate, the small and micro-merchant have been left out, as usual.

Some Interesting Odds And Ends From Money2020 Announcements

At any industry event such as Money2020, companies try and roll out new offerings—even if what they have to say isn't that new or interesting. But in reviewing the self-perpetuating avalanche of accolades, found a few interesting tidbits with that Monday dateline.

New stats from eMarketer: In 2015, mobile payments will total $8.71 billion in the US, with users spending an average of nearly $376 annually using their mobile phone as a payment method. By 2016, total mobile payment transactions will reach $27.05 billion, with users spending an average of $721.47 annually. Total mobile payment sales will rise faster than average spending per user in 2016 because of the growth in the number of overall users of the technology. Mozido confirmed a gateway platform that is optimized for trade between the U.S. and China. Less significantly, the company also announced the availability of it HCE product.

At any industry event such as Money2020, companies try and roll out new offerings—even if what they have to say isn't that new or interesting. But in reviewing the self-perpetuating avalanche of accolades, found a few interesting tidbits with that Monday dateline.

New stats from eMarketer: In 2015, mobile payments will total $8.71 billion in the US, with users spending an average of nearly $376 annually using their mobile phone as a payment method. By 2016, total mobile payment transactions will reach $27.05 billion, with users spending an average of $721.47 annually. Total mobile payment sales will rise faster than average spending per user in 2016 because of the growth in the number of overall users of the technology. Mozido confirmed a gateway platform that is optimized for trade between the U.S. and China. Less significantly, the company also announced the availability of it HCE product.