Sydney company creative digital technologies (CDT) plans to launch the first Australian development e-wallet next month.
An e-wallet, or digital wallet, is a secure software program that sits on a personal computer or a bank's computer and contains a customer's financial and account details.
It is designed to enable Internet shoppers to better manage online purchasing. The concept arrived at roughly the same time, in the mid-90s, as the concept of digital money, also known as e-cash. E-cash - money stored as computer code - never caught on with consumers, but e-wallets are expected to become an important part of e-commerce.
CDT's announcement comes just a month after visa, Mastercard and American Express joined America online, Microsoft, IBM, Sun, Compaq, Cybercast and e-wallet developer, Brodia, to launch a digital wallet standard called the electronic commerce modeling language (ECML). The standard ensures that e-wallet from different developers will work with all web site that accept payment from e-wallets.
The emerging generation of e-wallets focuses on speeding up the process of online shopping reducing the number of forms to be filled in, and managing the kind of personal information Internet shoppers feel nervous about giving to raft of separate Web sites. That typically includes credit card or bank account details and delivery addresses for products bought online.
"It's about giving control back to the customer," said Mr Douglas Carlson, founder of the online fruit and vegetable supplier, greengrocer.com, which has used a version of Microsoft's e-wallet on its Web site since it launched the company in 1997.
Because of early customer concern over whether credit card details would be stored securely by the Web site owners, Carlson said his company had never attempted to store that information. But that means every time a customer makes a purchase they have to re-enter all personal details.
The laboriousness of that form-filling has led many an online shopper to abandon their loaded electronic shopping basket at the birtual check-out as they find it all too hard.
Mr Carlson described the e-wallet idea as a "great solution. It allows them to store their own computer and just send us a copy with each purchase," he said.
With the latest version of Microsoft's e-wallet, which will be renamed Passport, the model is about to change, with details stored on the merchant's server computer, not on the individual's computer.
Mr Phil Meyer, head of Microsoft's Internet Customer Unit said customers were now confident enough in e-commerce security to be happy with that. The advantage is that they can access their e-wallet from any Internet-connected computer.
"It means they access their e-wallet from a WebTV device, a mobile phone or a friend's PC," he said.
Mr Meyer said Passport went into public trail last week and was due to be officially released in late September. It will be complaint with ECML standards.
The name change reflects the incorporation of technology that Microsoft acquired from Web site personalisation and privacy specialist Firefly in April last year.
Firefly developed the idea of a "passport" as a means by which Internet users could privately store personal profile information - from credit card details and shipping addresses to their taste in music, books and clothes.
Firefly members could then choose to pass on their passport numbers to other regularly visited Web sites, so that the sites could better understand what sort of customer they were and provide highly tailored product recommendations or advertising.
Online payment pioneer to opt for Nasdaq or ASX listing
Creative Digital Technology, a seven-year-old e-commerce company based on Sydney's northern beaches, is about to wade into the global electronic payments market.
CDT has spent years quietly developing a suite of products to provide end-to-end electronic transaction handling, from setting up a Web site "shop front" to electronic shopping basket technology, customer loyalty schemes and secure payment gateways that can handle credit card transactions, EFTPOS and account payments.
Next month it will add online bill presentment and payment and an electronic wallet module.
In the area of credit card payment clearing, CDT competes with Telstra's SureLink and Adelaide company Camptech, which claims to handle 60 percent of all Australian Internet credit card transactions. But CDT's CEO and technology officer Mr Bahram Boutorabi said CDT did not charge per transaction, as both Camtech and SureLlink did.
"Merchants see that as a tax on all payments form their customers," he said.
Instead, CDT makes its revenue from licensing fees, starting at $5,000 for a basic merchant Web site set-up and ongoing maintenance fees of 15percent of the license fee year.
CDT sold its first product licenses to Lowes, on of the earliest Australian online retailers, in 1996. A year later it enabled Advance Bank's electronic cash site. Since then, CDT has picked up a portfolio of more than 20 blue chip accounts.
The company said it was now working on e-commerce projects with Visa International, Harvey Norman, AOL and Permanent Trustee.
The Federal Government has just approved CDT's ActivePayment gateway for inclusion in the Entry Point Internet Payments Panel, and the first State government department to adopt CDT technology is expected to go live with an e-commerce application on July 27.
The company is owned by its three founders, Mr Boutorabi, Mr Philip Burton and Ms Mina Yavari. CDT is self-funded and "has no debt", Mr Boutorabi said.
He declined to give hard revenue or planned investment figures, but said the company was "one of the few profitable Internet companies".
Mr Burton said CDT had "had approaches by two large merchant banks in the US, advising us on how to prepare for [public listing] on Nasdaq".
But he said the company had not completely dismissed the possibility of an Australian Stock Exchange float.
"We've been surprised at the market acceptance of recently listed Australian companies. Looking at the market capitalisation they're getting, you'd have to think twice about the gains of listing on Nasdaq versus the ASX. It's hot. We'll decide by the end of August."The CDT Web site is: