Low cost etradibg was the theme at the Electronic Commerce 98 conference in London last week, as vendors launched Interne based software for business-to-business transactions.
ICL launched a managed business-to-business service for electronic data interchange (EDI), called ICLNet Trade Managed Service. ICL is piloting the product with P&O's container business.
Traditional EDI involves setting up a dedicated network connection and trading software between a company and its suppliers which offers reliability and resilience.
However, such systems are expensive to install and can exclude smaller companies from a large corporate's supply chain because of cost.
Internet based services are designed to cut the cost of business-to-business commerce because they use the Internet rather than a private network. ICLNet users can opt for a managed service, or ICL can set up the system for a one-off charge.
The director of ICL's business-to-business programme, Ray McCann, said the product could save users up to one-fifth of the cost of purchasing traditional systems.
The software used by ICL, Tradesite from ecommerce vendor Foresight, also made its European launch at the conference.
Other vendors launching software to support EDI on the Web included Sterling Commerce. The company's Gentran Web product can now be integrated through a browser in addition to a CD-Rom based catalogue or a customer call centre based application.
Ovum consultant Beth Barling said such developments of supply chain software were helpful, but added that suppliers to large companies such as retailers must foot the bill for systems. "A lot of this is still based on traditional EDI, and there's still the cost suppliers had with EDI. It's smaller, but it hasn't gone away," she said.
Also at the show, Cable & Wireless Communications announced version 2.0 of its Web-Commerce service. This latest version accepts 120 global currencies, supports micro-payments for goods with low prices, and supports major foreign languages. The service was developed with ecommerce software vendor Open Market.
The Royal Bank of Scotland bank unveiled an electronic payment service on the Internet, Roytrade. Formally a hardwired solution that required a dedicated set-up, this Internet version also includes the ability to submit letters of credit electronically.
Meanwhile, Worldpay extended its ecommerce payment system. It has given Internet users the ability to make payment in 140 currencies and make micro-payments in 16 currencies, which are then transferred to company accounts in the currency of their choice. Worldpay is also providing connectors to software from ecommerce vendors Intershop and Icat.
And TCS Consultants launched Emporia Merchant, a low cost ecommerce service for small businesses. TCS said that a simple store can be set up in just five minutes. Emporia Merchant, which costs #599 a year, offers a hosted Web site and secure collection of credit card details.
Steven Mathieson is a reporter on Computing.
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