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Mobile commerce trial works with Jack in the Box and First Data

A pilot program involving payments processor First Data, Sprint, San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transport system and burger chain Jack in the Box was signaled a success for mobile commerce.

This trial, said to be the first of its kind nationwide, combined in a single mobile phone multiple payment types, marketing and account management. Two hundred and thirty regular riders of the BART system were issued Near-Field Communication-enabled Sprint phones for a four-month trial. Those mobile phones became the payment method at BART stations and Jack in the Box restaurants across San Francisco. So-called smart posters located in the BART terminals let the participants tap their phones to get directions to the nearest Jack in the Box.

"It really shows that the necessary players in the mobile commerce landscape can work together to implement the necessary infrastructure and create a successful trial that has potential for full deployment and real-world integration," said Tom Savage, vice president of business development for mobile commerce solutions at First Data.

Here is the Q&A with Mr. Savage on the pilot program and how it portends the way of the future if all the players band together for mobile commerce. For its part, First Data is ploughing ahead with its initiatives for mobile commerce.

Would you call this pilot a success and how?
The trial was a success for many reasons.

Both qualitative and quantitative research affirms that the trial reached and exceeded expectations.

The data shows that trial participants took close to 9,000 trips on BART during the trial. This represents an average of 50 trips per participant during the trial.

Participants also topped-up their BART card balances more than 800 times using the over-the-air feature of their NFC-equipped phones averaging five BART top-ups per mobile phone during the trial.

More than 80 percent of trial participants indicated that the mobile wallet application was easy to use.

Who did you target and for what duration?
Two hundred and thirty BART riders participated in the four-month trial that began in January 2008 and ended at the end of May.

What was the strategy behind this effort?
During the past two-and-a-half years, First Data has really ramped up its focus on mobile commerce.

The trial with BART and Sprint presented a tremendous opportunity to support the implementation of the necessary infrastructure to support mobile payments and marketing applications. We increased our knowledge of how the mobile ecosystem operates and the skills required to implement.

How did the program work?
Two hundred and thirty regular BART riders were issued an NFC-enabled Sprint phone. Using NFC technology and secure provisioning, those phones became the payment method not just at BART stations, but Jack in the Box restaurants as well.

Multiple existing account types from multiple sources were all successfully working on a single device.

The trial participants exchanged their existing mobile phones for the Sprint trial phones embedded with the NFC-enabled smart chip.

Participants initially had a stored value of $48 worth of BART rides loaded onto their phone. Once the stored value dropped below $10, the NFC technology automatically reloaded the phone over the air with another $48 worth of rides, and the customer automatically received the BART high-value discount, so they were only charged $45.

Additionally, participants could also tap their phones on smart advertisement posters displayed in BART stations and receive directions to nearby Jack in the Box restaurants.

Once in the restaurant, the phones acted as JackCa$h prepaid accounts, enabling trial participants to pay for their meals by tapping the phones on contactless readers at the checkout.

How did you choose the 230 participants?
Sprint solicited participation by reaching out to its existing customer base in the Bay Area via email and Web advertisements. Respondents completed a survey and ideal candidates were selected to participate.

Why trial with BART and Jack in the Box?
BART is a leader in the transit market with respect to promoting and embracing new technologies for its ridership. They are contactless-enabled at the turnstiles and view mobile commerce as an opportunity to increase convenience for their commuters while at the same time reducing costs.

Jack in the Box was asked to participate because they are also contactless-enabled at the POS and are an existing First Data prepaid client.

How unique was this effort? Anyone else doing something similar?
It was unique in that it was the first-in-the-nation trial that combined, in a single device, multiple mobile payment types, marketing and account management.

How does this move the needle for mobile commerce?
It really shows that the necessary players in the mobile commerce landscape can work together to implement the necessary infrastructure and create a successful trial that has potential for full deployment and real-world integration.

What are the biggest hurdles for mobile commerce?
We need to have NFC-enabled mobile devices available in the marketplace, which we hope to see in the next couple of years.

We need merchants to outfit their POS systems with contactless terminals so they can accept mobile and contactless payments, and we need to build awareness with consumers so they will adopt this new payment technology.

Finally, we need all industry players to work together and bring all the necessary components into a cohesive solution.

What next for First Data?
First Data views mobile commerce as an important part of its business, and is aggressively working with mobile network operators and technology providers to help push mobile commerce forward and reach a critical mass amongst consumers and merchants.

We are also continuing to progress with our Go-Tag solution -- our suite of unique form factors capable of enacting contactless payment transactions -- and should have more to tell you there in the near future.

So who stands to benefit most from such efforts?
We believe all parties benefit from mobile commerce.

Consumers will have the convenience of not having to carry all their payment cards with them, and being able to manage their accounts in real-time. Merchants will be able to build stronger relationships with their customers and increase efficiencies and throughput.