Web services-based spec for mobile payments released

PayCircle, an industry organization representing more than 30 companies including Hewlett-Packard Co., Oracle Corp., and Sun Microsystems Inc., on Wednesday released a specification for conducting mobile commerce via a Web services paradigm. Other major vendors such as BEA Systems Inc., IBM Corp., and Microsoft Corp. are not members of the organization.

The PayCircle Payment Web Service Specification 1.0 is now available for public review and for implementation in products. The specification is intended to offer a standard way to provide mobile commerce payment services for data services on such mobile devices as PDAs and cell phones. The focus of the specification is to enable mobile commerce via standard APIs, which would be used by merchants and content and ASPs.

PayCircle's specification uses Web services specifications WSDL and SOAP as well as XML to provide for payment services, according to Jacob Christfort, vice president of product development at Oracle's mobile products and services division, in Redwood Shores, Calif. In the payment scheme, WSDL describes the information going back and forth over the wire, SOAP makes the service request, and the SOAP message is formatted using XML, he said.

Currently, service providers have to use multiple interfaces to communicate payment information, Christfort said. "With this specification, you just have to write one interface and it will automatically work together with all the different billing systems," said Christfort.

PayCircle anticipates the specification will boost growth of mobile commerce. Oracle, for its part, plans to support the specification in the next version of the company's application server, which is to be discussed at the OracleWorld conference in San Francisco next month, Oracle officials said.

But BEA Systems, considered the leading Java application server vendor, is not a member of PayCircle, according to the organization's membership list. Microsoft and IBM also are not on the list. The PayCircle specification potentially represents a new division in the Web services standards arena, which already has seen companies such as Oracle and Sun at loggerheads with IBM, Microsoft, and BEA over efforts in areas such as Web services orchestration for e-business.

BEA officials declined comment Wednesday while an IBM spokesperson said the company would not be able to comment on the PayCircle plan until Thursday. Microsoft did not respond to a request for comment.

A key intention of PayCircle's effort is to better enable "micro-payments," which are transactions below US$10, such as sending of a stock quote, that can cost more for the payment service than the actual data service itself costs, Christfort said.

"Micro-payments are payments that fall below the feasibility of traditional payment systems," such as credit card-based transactions, said Christfort.

The PayCircle consortium was formed in January 2002.

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