First Direct, the telephone bank, has started Internet banking trials with 2,000 of its 650,000 customers participating. The service has been created with ICL to extend beyond PC banking and includes set-top boxes, network computers and personal digital assistants as the client hardware.
Based on Java, the service allows customers to transfer funds between accounts, pay bills, view statements, order credit cards, request PINs and open savings accounts. It also has a one-to-one marketing capability that allows messages and information to be tailored to the needs of the customer. Like the normal telephone banking service, Internet users will have 24-hour access to First Direct.
The system has been developed by ICL to offer the expected levels of security for a Web-based banking system. For obvious reasons, neither company will disclose full details except to confirm that firewalls and encryption play a major part. The encryption is stronger than standards that can currently be exported from the US, but no one is saying whether this means 128-bit or higher.
ICL has sponsored research firm MORI to survey the market for Internet banking. According to this report, it's estimated that 31 per cent of adults expect to use banking services through their PC or TV in the next five years and that 25 per cent would consider moving their accounts to a company offering home banking.
VISA LAUNCHES CARD TRIAL FOR SHOPPING BY MICROPAYMENTS
Smart cards that can be used to pay for goods on the Net are imminent, as Visa announced its first trial, to be launched this summer.
The six-month pilot will use Visa Cash, a smart card with an intelligent chip, to carry out low-value transactions or micropayments.
Several hundred employees of Visa and Bank of America will participate in the in-house pilot, using reloadable Visa Cash cards and their PCs to buy goods from participating merchants.
Virtual purchases using a Visa Cash card will work in much the same way as a shop purchase. Cardholders insert their Visa Cash card into a card reader attached to a PC and select a Visa Cash payment option on the respective Web site. They can review the purchase amount, then click to carry out the transaction. The amount is deducted from the card's chip, then captured by the merchant's payment server for settlement.
Later this year, Project e-COMM in France, a consortium co-founded by Visa, will test Net payments with chip cards and the SET protocol.
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