IVI Buys Debitek

IVI Checkmate announced Wednesday that it has entered into an agreement to acquire Debitek Holdings Limited in exchange for IVI Checkmate stock. It is anticipated the transaction will be complete by year end. Debitek, of Chattanooga, TN, supplies smart card and magnetic stripe card application program interfaces that interface with unattended point-of-sale equipment (copiers, printers, vending machines, revalue stations and laundry equipment) of systems integrators.These system integration partners supply cashless payment solutions to closed user groups such as universities, public libraries, commercial laundries, correctional institutions, corporate campuses, cruise ships, resorts, and military facilities and ships.


Iris ID

PINs and passwords may become a thing of the past following yesterday’s announcement that Citibank, NCR, J.P. Morgan, Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch’s KECALP Inc. have joined together to make a $28 million equity investment into NJ-based Sensar. Sensar manufactures iris identification products for transaction systems. Sensar’s iris identification products use standard video cameras and state-of-the-art real-time image processing to acquire a picture of a person’s iris, digitally encode it, and compare it with one on file, all in less than a few seconds. The company says research shows the matching accuracy of iris identification is greater than that of DNA testing. The strategic partners expect to incorporate Sensar’s products into several banking and consumer applications such as ATMs and in-bank teller stations. The ‘Sensar Secure Iris Identification System’ is currently being used in NCR ATMs and at teller stations at Nationwide Building Society, the UK’s largest savings and loan.


Euro Conference

In anticipation of the euro, the common European currency that will debut in 11 European countries on Jan. 1, Travel Weekly, the leading newspaper of the travel industry, is bringing together key executives from top North American travel companies to discuss the implications and effects the euro will have on their businesses, the industry and travelers.

The conference, the first of its kind for the travel industry, will be held at the Marriott Financial Center here Nov.11. Co-sponsoring the event are Visa and Marriott Hotels.

“Many people think the euro is just another currency,” says Dinah Spritzer, Travel Weekly’s Europe editor. “It’s much more complex than people realize, and that’s why we felt it necessary to go beyond the obvious issues that have been previously explored in public venues.”

Spritzer, who has been tracking the euro since its inception, says experts in fields from software to pricing have equated the problems posed by the introduction of the new currency with those of the year 2000 computing debacle.

“The possibilities for financial profit or loss are huge,” she says. “We want to make sure members of the travel industry understand the impact the euro will have on their business; the best way to package travel products, particularly with regard to pricing, and ultimately how to market them to their clients — the traveling public.”

Speakers for the Euro Conference include:

— Chris Matthews, U.S. representative of the European Union, who will explain the fundamentals of the currency.

— Ignacio Vasallo, director of the Tourist Office of Spain here and a member of the executive board of the European Travel Commission, who will present an overview of the euro’s significance to travelers.

— Simon Jarvis, senior vice president of global support services for Visa International, will provide details on how travelers will pay for goods and services in Europe once the euro has arrived.

— Sarwar Kashmeri, president of Niche Systems, who will discuss how the euro will affect legal, accounting and software.

— Zanny Minton Beddoes, Washington correspondent for The Economist magazine, who will deliver an address on the economic and social consequences of the euro.

Panel discussions will address two key issues: how the euro will affect supplier pricing and how travel agents and travelers can prepare for and benefit from the euro.

The Euro Pricing Panel includes Peter McCormack, vice president of sales and marketing for Trafalgar Tours, New York; Ravi Rao, president and chief executive officer of Jet Vacations International, El Segundo, Calif.; Gary Rosenthal, senior vice president of international lodging finance for Marriott International, and Ian Taylor, vice president of corporate foreign exchange dealing with Thomas Cook, Toronto.

Panelists discussing the Agency Challenge include Sandy Cutrone, president of European Connection, Roslyn, N.Y.; Charles Roumas, senior vice president of strategic planning for Travel One, Mount Laurel, N.J.; Ken Sause, president of Travelworks, Wallingford, Conn., and Tom Lacny, executive vice president of international development for World Travel Partners -BTI Americas, Northbrook, Ill.

The Euro Conference starts at 8: 30 a.m. and will conclude at 2 p.m. The conference includes lunch, during which Zanny Minton Beddoes will deliver her keynote address.

Attendance, which is free, is by invitation only and seating is limited. To obtain an invitation or to confirm attendance, call Arline Innis at (201) 902-2021 or send e-mail to [ainnis@oag.com][1].

[1]: mailto:ainnis@oag.com


Holiday Spending

According to the fourth annual American Express Retail Index on holiday shopping, consumers expect to spend an average of $1,342 on holiday gifts, entertaining, travel and other related expenses this year.  This represents an 8% increase from spending indicated by a similar survey last year, which revealed holiday budgets at $1,233.  However, AmEx says this holiday season, 59% will set a budget for gifts and other expenses. To pay for their purchases consumers will use a combination of cash (88%) and credit cards (64%, up from 48% in 1997).  Forty-nine percent of consumers will also use checks.  Although credit card usage is up, more than half (54%) say they plan to pay their holiday bills in full when the statement arrives. Sixteen percent will redeem credit card reward program points to obtain items they plan to give as gifts.


[1]: /graphic/americanexpress/amexholidayspending1998.gif


Extensity T&E Seminars

Extensity, Inc., a leading provider of Web-based operational cost management applications, will sponsor three free West Coast seminars in November on Travel & Entertainment Best Practices.  During the half-day seminars, financial and travel managers will hear from major corporations who have achieved significant cost savings by automating T&E processes.  In addition, leaders in travel, accounting, and software will discuss T&E Best Practices and options for implementing automated T&E processes via corporate Intranets.

The seminars will be held:

Tuesday, Nov. 17, Hotel Sofitel, Los Angeles      Wednesday, Nov. 18, Sheraton Seattle Hotel & Towers, Seattle      Thursday, Nov. 19, The Westin San Francisco Airport, Millbrae

Featured speaker Greg Hammermaster, director of commercial card products, VISA USA, will begin the session with a presentation titled, “T&E Management Best Practices: Maximizing Efficiency while Minimizing Costs.”  In addition, Extensity partners Internet Travel Network (ITN), U.S. Bank and Deloitte & Touche will present information about the various components of achieving T&E Best Practices, including compliance and administration, corporate cards and methodology.

Major corporations will share their experience in automating various parts of their travel processes, including on-line booking, T&E expense reporting, leveraging corporate card services, and integrating with back-end accounting systems.

With T&E expenses representing the third largest operational cost in the budget of an average corporation, the savings can be significant.  Extensity helps companies achieve dramatic savings in the T&E budget by helping to address the cost associated with paper-based expense reporting.  The company will demonstrate how automating the T&E process can be done very quickly and easily, leveraging a corporation’s Intranet.

“I wish I’d had a resource like this seminar five years ago when I began looking for a solution to our T&E needs,” said James Copeland, vice president of administration at RELTEC Corp.  “Financial and travel managers who attend these seminars will take home expert information that will help them begin streamlining their T&E processes — and saving money — right away.”

Financial and travel managers interested in obtaining more information or attending a seminar should call Britt Kristensen at 510-596-5744, or register online at .

About Extensity

Extensity is pioneering the development of Web-based enterprise applications that reduce the major operational costs in corporations.  By automating these business processes, Extensity’s customers can achieve greater productivity and tighter control over corporate spending to realize dramatic bottom-line cost savings and improved employee satisfaction.  Established by Scopus Technology co-founder Sharam Sasson, Extensity is funded by premier venture backers including Hummer Winblad Venture Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers’ Java Fund, Weiss, Peck & Greer Venture Partners, and Visa International.  Extensity customers include Franklin Resources, Incyte Pharmaceuticals, Nationsbanc Montgomery Securities, RELTEC, and the @Home Network. For more information on Extensity, go to .


Discover Expands Online

Discover Financial Services Inc., a business unit of Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co, is expanding its current account services to provide customers with a direct connection to their account information online.  The new service is driven by the Innovision Financial Server, an XML multi-protocol server that delivers OFX functionality through software applications such as Quicken or Money.

The Innovision Server offers a complete solution for implementation of OFX.  With this functionality in place, Discover Financial Services customers will be able to view and download an array of information from their credit card, and Saver/CD accounts such as balance availability, transaction histories and current interest rates.

Built using distributed object technology, the Innovision Financial Server provides a flexible architecture that is engineered to support all existing and emerging open financial protocols and applications, including OFX.  It can be installed, integrated and maintained with minimal resources.  The Innovision server runs on leading platforms including Sun’s Solaris and Microsoft’s Windows NT.

Discover Financial Services, a business unit of Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co., operates the Discover Card brands with more than 48 million Cardmembers and the Discover/NOVUS Network.  The Network is the third largest credit card network in the United States with more than 3 million merchant and cash access locations.

Innovision Corporation develops software solutions that leverage industry-defined data interchange standards allowing corporations to reduce technology costs and expand market reach.  Innovision XML server technologies work with existing Web, database and middleware products.  They are in use at leading companies including Morgan Stanley, Dreyfus Corporation, T. Rowe Price and American Century Investments.

For more information about Innovision or its products, please call (913) 226-8700 or send e-mail to [info@innovision.com][1].  The Innovision Web site is located at .

[1]: mailto:info@inovision.com


Entertainment Edge MC

Affinity king MBNA and Marketing Services Group, Inc. lifted the curtain yesterday on the new ‘Entertainment Edge Platinum Plus MasterCard’. The new card program offers cardholders entertainment benefits that include show discounts, preferred seating, and advance ticket sales. The program will also tie in merchandise and concession discount offers and allow patrons the ability to join theater tours and educational seminars tied to selected theater party performances. In addition, the card will provide discounts on restaurants, accommodations and parking. The ‘Entertainment Edge’ program will initially focus on the Boston-Washington corridor. MSG says the program will expand to regional destinations that have a high concentration of live entertainment buyers, such as Chicago, Los Angeles, London and Toronto.


Hypercom & Horizon

Hypercom Corp.acquired the assets and business of The Horizon Group Inc. yesterday. The Horizon Group will be operated by Hypercom as an independent subsidiary with sales, distribution and support operations based in St. Louis. Horizon will retain its current management structure and corporate identity. The Horizon Group is a national distributor of equipment from Hypercom and other POS equipment manufacturers. In addition to sales of new equipment, the company provides a variety of services, including refurbishing equipment, help desk, PIN pad key loading, terminal deployment and other custom programs.The acquisition will allow Hypercom to meet the needs of a segment of its customer base that requires direct-from-manufacturer terminal services.


SPC vs NeuralTech

NE-based legal publisher Mealey Publications reported this morning that an attorney for credit card processor SPC has confirmed his client has settled a federal lawsuit filed in October against its processing system supplier NeuralTech. Terms of the settlement were not revealed. SPC, which operates as First of Omaha Merchant Processing, was asking the U.S. District Court here to order NeuralTech to provide a Year 2000 compliant ‘CADRE’ software system.  SPC charged that its existing system experienced significant problems processing retrievals and merchant chargebacks.  Under its contracts with VISA and MasterCard, SPC would have been responsible for any of the 250,000 disputes it failed to timely resolve because of failures in its $5 million CADRE system.


Santa Phonecard

FL-based Tri-Star Marketing Group and Cable & Wireless launched the ‘Call Santa and Rudolph’ interactive phonecard yesterday. The cardholder, or the child, dials the toll-free number on the back of the colorful phonecard. Santa and Rudolph talk to the child by way of a pre-recorded message, and Santa asks the child what he/she wants for Christmas. After Santa asks for a list, when the child answers the question, the wish list will be recorded. When the child is done, the parent can call a toll-free number to hear what their child wants. Both the child and the parent can call their toll-free number two times. The card will retail for $4.99.


MasterCard Canada Alliance

To capture a greater share of the US$2 trillion global travel & entertainment market and further their commitment to provide travellers with value-added benefits, MasterCard and the Canadian Tourism Commission Wednesday announced a strategic alliance that will grow the C$44 billion Canadian tourism industry and promote Canada as a top travel destination worldwide.

In a joint announcement at the Tourism Industry Association of Canada conference in Ottawa, MasterCard and the CTC signed an agreement to support the goals of both organizations. The alliance will provide support to Canadian tourism-related merchants to enhance the way they do business year-round while providing value-added products and services to MasterCard cardholders travelling to and within Canada.

“The agreement recognizes the opportunity that tourism represents to the Canadian economy and the reality of the competitive marketplace in which it operates today,” explained CTC president Doug Fyfe. “The association of MasterCard with travel to and within Canada, their assistance in developing professionalism standards and the broad acceptance of MasterCard cards in Canada will help CTC partners grow their businesses and increase profitability.”

“Through our alliance with the CTC, MasterCard will develop programs that help improve the merchant infrastructure within the Canadian travel community,” said Craig Penney, vice-president operations of MasterCard Canada Inc. “We are committed to provide emerging technology, professional development programs and promotional offerings that help advance and drive tourism in Canada.”

“This alliance with the CTC clearly demonstrates our commitment to the growing global T&E market by focusing on one of the world’s top travel destinations,” said Alan Brown, vice-president of global T&E marketing for MasterCard. “Our member banks, Canadian merchants and MasterCard cardholders around the world will benefit from this alliance with exclusive deals and value-added products and services-further distinguishing us from the competition.”

The agreement between MasterCard and the CTC follows MasterCard’s successful alliances with government tourist authorities including the French National Tourist Office (Maison de la France), China National Tourist Administration and Mexico’s National Tourism Secretariat.

The main aim of the strategic alliance between MasterCard and the CTC will be to help small- and medium-sized merchants in the Canadian Tourism Industry become more successful by:

(x) Creating professional development programs through in-market seminars, case studies, self-help guides and interactive CD-ROMs;

(x) Engaging in joint research to identify market segments by developing business profiles and pre-testing marketing and promotional campaigns;

(x) Developing and adopting technology related to commercial transactions in the tourism industry; and

(x) Integrating Canada into existing and prospective MasterCard promotions.

The Canadian Tourism Commission is a private-public sector organization that promotes the growth and profitability of Canada’s tourism industry by fostering partnerships between government and industry that lever their individual strengths.

Its partners include hotels, airlines, railways, travel agencies, attractions, tour operators, retailers, financial services and technology firms as well as local, regional and federal government agencies which have an interest in tourism. Its academic, econometric and research partners have also made the CTC the leading world supplier of tourism economic information and analysis. The Commission’s web site is located at [http://info.ic.gc.ca/tourism][1].

MasterCard International has the most comprehensive portfolio of payment brands in the world. With 23,000 member financial institutions, serving consumers in 220 countries and territories, MasterCard is the industry leader in quality and innovation. More than 600 million MasterCard, Maestro, Cirrus and Mondex cards are accepted at more than 15 million locations worldwide. In 1997, gross dollar volume approached the equivalent of C$1 trillion. MasterCard can be reached through its web site at .

[1]: http://www.info.ic.gc.ca/tourism


Waiting Room Gambling

Betting Inc. has begun to distribute free Pay Master units at public- waiting-room locations in Redondo Beach, Calif., that will provide Internet gaming operators with a self-service unit that enables present Internet gaming customers to open or to replenish their accounts by nonverbal credit-card cash advances or by ATM-card or smart-card, nonreversible cash payments.

Opening gaming accounts or replenishing them are legal, nonbetting transactions.

Additional cost savings to the Internet gaming operators are offered by the new player — sitting at a car wash or hair salon or hotel lobby — simply using the Pay Master alphanumeric key pad to input his/her name, address and other salient information needed by the Internet gaming companies.

By using the publicly located Pay Masters, Internet gaming customers can elect to send “card present” credit cards, which is a lower merchant charge rate to the gaming operators and which also offers the player the additional security of not sending his/her home address over the Internet and alerting burglars to where the Internet gaming player lives.

The player will be charged a small fee per transaction for this service that will be electronically paid to Betting Inc.

The Pay Masters are initially being distributed for free at waiting-room locations in Southern California as an electronic device that enables waiting-room customers to self-service shop from printed catalogs.

Gaming material will also be distributed at these same locations for self-service-Internet-gaming sign up or account replenishment.

Betting Inc. is presently offering Globallot Bingo information at its Pay Master locations, and is in discussions with sports book and other gaming operators.