The Green Sheet Online Edition
July 13, 2009 • Issue 09:07:01
Portable card swipe
Using the MerchantWARE Mobile service on a BlackBerry phone, merchants can add a wireless, Bluetooth swipe device that obviates the need to punch in a customer's card information. The device requires that merchants operate through Merchant Warehouse's gateway, but there are no additional gateway or cellular fees for using it.
Other than the cost of the Bluetooth reader itself, everything else - including the payment application download - is free.
"It's all included in the price," said Henry Helgeson, President of Merchant Warehouse. "It doesn't require a third-party gateway like most of our competitors use. It allows almost any business owner to get that swiped rate on the go without having to shill out the big money for the wireless terminals. And it is very secure."
Top of the line security
The swipe device uses a MagTek Inc.'s MagneSafe reader with triple DES encryption that, according to Helgeson, "scrambles the card data ... as soon as it hits the read head."
Furthermore, the information is immediately directed to the Merchant Warehouse gateway, keeping it out of the hands of the merchant - where sensitive data can be especially vulnerable.
"We basically decrypt it here at the office," Helgeson said. "Even if someone was able to intercept that between the Bluetooth reader and the BlackBerry, they couldn't do anything with that. It would be tough for the KGB to crack this."
Generally speaking, card information is more effectively encrypted when it's lifted directly from a card's magnetic stripe than when it's manually entered on a key pad. But Helgeson also mentioned a more overlooked benefit: convenience.
For merchants and consumers, swiping a card is a lot easier than pressing a long sequence of buttons - and that's particularly true with mobile commerce, where the buttons on a phone can be tiny, hard to read and difficult to punch.
"It's significantly faster," Helgeson said. "As we all know, these devices don't always have the biggest keyboards. ... Reading the card numbers off the card itself can be a challenge. It's going to be a big time saver for merchants - especially merchants that are going to be in flea markets, sports stadiums, that type of thing."
Easy to carry
According to Helgeson, the reader is about a "third the size of an iPhone." That, coupled with the fact that it's wireless, makes it eminently portable.
"The merchants don't have to carry around the big, bulky wireless terminals now," he said. "This is something where you would just use your regular PDA [personal digital assistant], a device that's already in your pocket so they can take credit cards anywhere."
The device is only compatible with BlackBerry phones, and while Helgeson noted that most business owners "probably have the BlackBerry over the iPhone," he said the company was working toward making a similar product for the iPhone as well.
"The reason is that Apple is a little bit picky about what they actually allow to be synched with [the iPhone] - what Bluetooth devices they allow," he said. "There has to be hardware changes made by the manufacturer so that the device is ... made for iPhone."
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