Right time for new technology

An innovative proximity payment firm, bought by US company American Bank Note, has launched a partnership with an online banking specialist after being bought back by its founder.

Norwich-based Proxama, which specialises in technology that allows proximity or contactless payments through mobile phones, was sold by Dr Neil Garner to ABN in September 2008.

It was in the hope the US secure payment specialist firm's backing would help take the software Proxama had developed to market.

The software allows phones to be used to pay for items by simply holding the phone near a payment device – already in shops from Subway to Pret a Manger.

It follows a trend set by Barclaycard and now Norwich-based Virgin Money to allow contactless credit card payments on transactions below �15. The phone software, however, would also let people access their balances and manage their accounts, Proxama says.

However, the recession set the technology back as mobile phone networks and operators put development projects on hold, meaning mobile phones were not fitted with the so-called near-field communications (NFC) hardware needed to enable the software.

Now the firm, based in Bank Plain, is back in Dr Garner's hands and he says the time is right to bring the technology to the market.

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It has launched a partnership with Tuxedo Money Solutions, an online banking specialist and has taken on two new board members: Chris Chapman, ex-Lotus and GE Money, and Ed Chandler, previously commercial director at Barclaycard – a leading firm in the proximity payment card market.

'Banks and mobile phone network operators are all keen for people to be able to pay with phones,' said Dr Garner. 'For the mobile phone operators it gives them more to offer so they are not just a phone operator.'

He describes the software as 'wallet software', which means people can not only make payments with their phone but also manage bank accounts, transfer cash, top up balances and potentially even store documents like drivers' licences.

The software will be sold to banks, network operators and retailers.

Mr Garner said there were already 26,000 locations with contactless payment points.

'Now we have the infrastructure, which means we can do something with it,' he said. 'There are 1.8 billion credit cards and more than 4 billion phones, and phones are growing faster than cards. We are in a growth market.'