EDS Takes Wireless to the Bank

CHICAGO (04/19/2000) - Citing the future of financial transactions as the "digital wallet," EDS Tuesday went into further detail about its announcement at Comdex/Spring 2000 on Monday that coast-to-coast wireless banking is now available anytime, anywhere, on mobile devices.

"In the next three years, the wireless market is predicted to expand from 300 million to 1 billion devices," said Chris Carrington, president of the Americas unit of E.solutions, a subsidiary of EDS, in Plano, Texas. "Mobile devices are far simpler to use than a PC, and much cheaper."

Wireless Banking Solutions, unveiled by EDS Monday, offers coast-to-coast full-service capabilities to provide consumer banking and bill payment abilities in handheld and mobile devices, according to EDS officials. Banking customers can now use Palm VII PDAs (personal digital assistants) through Palm.net's service or microbrowser-enabled mobile phones through phone.com to have round-the-clock access to their bank accounts that is not held to the restrictions that banking hours impose.

"It's a matter of control, a matter of convenience, and a matter of cost," said Mark Atchison, director of financial products at E.solutions.

"Banker's hours are over," Carrington added.

Using Wireless Banking Solutions, bank customers can perform many types of transactions such as money transfers, account transfers, bill payment. They can even set up open-pay e-lists that will automatically deduct money from the account to pay regular bills.

"Society is changing and the mobility of our society is driving that change," Carrington said. "We're looking at a new Palm economy."

The wireless service basically allows for the expansion of Web applications to wireless devices in a manner that encrypts the data being transacted. Although wireless technologies can not use cookies, Atchison said, the system makes use of a "token" system that requires that the same token be sent and received during each step of the transaction time. If the token is not there or is changed, the transaction will not go through, he said.

"We don't see users using microbrowsers for Web surfing," Atchison added.

"But, we do see them using [microbrowsers] for very specific kinds of transactions."

Security issues are a concern. However, Atchison said he believed that in time consumers would be ready to accept wireless banking and embrace it.

"Of course, certain percentages of the population are going to have slower reception rates," Atchison admitted. "However, with any change in society there are going to be those percentages."

Carrington also admitted that it is not unlikely that similar banks or other service providers may start following the lead of cellular service providers and start offering free PDAs with long-term service agreements.

"There are some creative ideas there for retention, and certainly the cost of retaining a customer is very expensive," Carrington said.

Additionally, Carrington added that EDS is in the process of developing an online trading option for PDA users hoping to keep track of the market at any given time from anywhere, although no time frame was given for when that option might be available.

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