Mondex USA's ReadiMondex software will be available to operate in tandem with Microsoft's ActiveStore system framework this year, the companies announced last week.

Mondex introduced ReadiMondex, which helps retailers accept Mondex smart card payments on-line, at May's Cardtech/Securtech conference.

Mondex characterized the product as an easy way for companies to integrate smart card technology into their lines of business. The compatibility with ActiveStore, Microsoft's leading storefront software, will facilitate commerce with smart cards, company officials said.

This summer, a small group of retailers will be the first to test ReadiMondex.

"We are targeting retailers who are large cash-based merchants and who are rapidly moving to client/server technology," said Janet Crane, president and chief executive officer of Mondex USA, based in San Francisco.

Ms. Crane said Mondex decided to integrate with ActiveStore because more retailers are expressing interest in Microsoft NT, Win32 technology, and ActiveStore.

Microsoft components are a backdrop for the marriage of the two technologies.

ReadiMondex handles the on-line transfer of cash to and from Mondex smart cards, and it collects and stores Mondex value for retailers. It uses Active-X components-the base for building NT operating systems-and is built for Win32 platforms.

ActiveStore is an open software program that lets retailers install different applications on Windows-based systems.

"Retailers are a very ripe market for this," said Jerome Svigals, an electronic banking consultant in Redwood City, Calif. "Not everyone has access to a credit card, and (issuers) have not been that successful selling debit cards."

Mr. Svigals said the Mondex system allows retailers to accept card-based payments without the expenses associated with the national association cards.

"There is no authorization or transaction charge. You basically have a do-it-yourself system with relatively nominal economics," Mr. Svigals said.

ReadiMondex is also compliant with the PC/SC-or personal computer/smart card-protocol, which Mondex said makes it easy and inexpensive for their target retailers to run Mondex.

"In addition to no longer having to know and write all of our protocol and systems specifications, now retailers will be able to use PC/SC- compliant hardware in their stores," Ms. Crane said.

"That means they can install a 'dumb' reader in each of their stores to each one of their outlets, and not have to upgrade it every time Mondex is upgraded," she added.

Mondex will be the only electronic cash component on the ActiveStore system.

"The nice thing about the Mondex solution is that it allows you to deal through phone and the Internet and between establishments on a secured card-to-card basis, " Mr. Svigals said.

Mondex cards have a digital signature capability that assures their authenticity when they interact with terminals, Mr. Svigals said.

Ms. Crane said the combination of Mondex and its operating system, Multos, allows retailers to customize their payment networks in a variety of ways.

A software developer for a retailer could take ReadiMondex and plug it into any type of program, including payment, loyalty, and authentication models, Ms. Crane said.

Mondex has already begun to test loyalty-based smart cards in some Burger King fast-food restaurants on New York's Long Island.

"Once you have the Multos product on the card, it is really up to everyone's creativity in terms of what they would like to put down," Ms. Crane said. "All those capabilities would be available to anyone who uses ReadiMondex, and (the retailer) also drops it into the ActiveStore framework."

The ActiveStore initiative is supported by more than 350 companies worldwide, including Burger King Corp., Marks & Spencer, Montgomery Ward, and Dayton Hudson Corp.

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