Toronto firm offers mobile commerce options

For taxi cab drivers this might come as sweet redemption.

Toronto-based Datawire Communications Networks has concocted a wireless solution for the taxi industry. easiPay is an on-line service which enables any mobile browser-equipped cell phone or WAP-enabled personal digital assistant to process credit card transactions. It is a real-time wireless credit card payment solution that transforms a mobile phone into a credit card terminal.

There’s no need for the use of cumbersome mobile devices or the added bureaucracy of a bank affiliation. While easiPay could be used in a wide array of industries intent on mobile commerce – door-to-door salespeople, for example – but Datawire, a transaction processing provider that prides itself on creating next-generation commerce solutions for the wireless, wireline and telecom markets, was anxious to prove its technology is a keeper by soliciting the cooperation of the Toronto taxi cab industry.

“We chose Toronto not only because it’s where we’re based and it’s the largest city in Canada but also because we wanted to involve our partners Bell Mobility and Baka Wireless in the trials,” said Datawire president and CEO Anees Munshi. “easiPay is designed for any mobile merchant. It’s a cash register in your pocket.”

For a three-week study of the system, Datawire equipped 10 taxi cab drivers with cell phones. Each time one of the drivers had a fare that requested to pay by credit card, the driver simply logged onto the WAP page Datawire provides and punched the card number into the cell phone. An authorization number – or a refusal – is issued within seven seconds.

“A sales draft is also taken by the driver at the request of the credit card institution but this is for signature verification and it’s not necessary for the actual transaction to take place,” Munshi said.

Whereas taxi drivers pay about seven to 11 per cent to their brokers for processing credit card payments – some of which turn out to be fraudulent – easiPay charges users a flat four per cent rate per transaction and a guaranteed, authorized sale.

Behind the easiPay system is Datawire’s patent-pending technology, the Virtual Transaction Network (VXN), a distributed communication system for implementing secure database transactions over the Internet.

Toronto-based IDC Canada analyst Jordan Worth said easiPay could prove to be both a liberating and empowering sales feature for mobile commerce merchants.

“It’s certainly a benefit to cab drivers or for any mobile merchant that doesn’t have access to a traditional credit card verification module,” he said. “The fact that it can be accessed from virtually any PDA or cell phone also makes the service instantly viable.”

One driver was quite impressed by the mobile trial. “The easiPay system is a quick and easy way for my customers to pay for their cab fare,” said Shafi Shaikh, a Toronto taxi driver who participated in the market trials for the service. “All I have to do is punch in their credit card number using my cell phone and the transaction is complete.”

Munshi added the pilot – which concluded in late July – was a success with all of the involved cab drivers reportedly giving easiPay two thumbs up.

“The drivers loved the system and they were happy with the performance,” he said. “We had no customer complaints either.”

Moreover, Datawire has just closed its first round of venture capital financing and anticipates a second round by summer’s end. easiPay is currently completing an estimated 1.5 million transactions each month in a number of North American cities and Datawire has forged partnerships recently with the likes of Bell Mobility, PSINet, and Baka Wireless.