The Mondex smart card will soon be a payment option on the Internet - the result of an arrangement with Cybercash Inc.
Cybercash said it has agreed with Mondex International to integrate the stored-value technology with its "virtual wallet" for Internet payments. With a smart-card reader attached to a personal computer, consumers will be able to make purchases or transfer value onto their Mondex cards.
"Mondex is positioning itself to be one of the brands accepted over the Internet," said Richard Fletcher, head of strategy and planning for the London-based organization. "Mondex is virtual cash, a natural synergy to virtual commerce."
Bruce Wilson, executive vice president of Cybercash in Reston, Va., said the development is "an example of two companies working together to bring smart card and Internet technology together for banks."
A Mondex icon will become part of the Cybercash Wallet, allowing computer users to "click on" for payment.
The technology should be available by mid-1997, but it may take longer to get cards and readers into the hands of consumers.
Electronic commerce is expected to encourage growth in smart cards because they offer more security than magnetic stripe technology.
Recently, a consortium led by Microsoft Corp. and Hewlett Packard Co. announced a working group to develop standards for PC-smart card connections to facilitate Internet payments.
Security measures such as digital signatures and encryption keys could be incorporated in the cards' chips.
Mondex gained additional credibility with its Cybercash alliance, observers said. "Mondex seems to be leveraging its position better in the United States," said Karen Epper, associate analyst with Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass.
Mondex, spun out of Natwest Group in London in July, is owned by 17 banks from all over the world, including Wells Fargo & Co., Royal Bank of Canada, and Hongkong & Shanghai Banking Corp.
The system is being tested in Swindon, England, and at Wells Fargo headquarters in San Francisco, with an upcoming trial scheduled for Guelph, Ontario.
MasterCard International is reportedly nearing an agreement to acquire the Mondex technology and brand name.