By announcing a joint development agreement this week with the Mondex smart card organization, Beenz.com signaled that it will not be satisfied to be just an Internet company.
Beenz.com turned to Mondex International, which is 51% owned by MasterCard International, for a way to transport its virtual currency - known as beenz - from the on-line world to the physical one.
Beenz has garnered considerable publicity for its form of virtual currency, which can be accumulated in various ways at on-line sites and spent at participating merchants. Mondex, offering its chip cards as a physical vehicle for beenz, may now be hoping some of that buzz comes its way too.
"There are plenty of opportunities where Mondex and Beenz are very powerful in the Internet space, the gaming space, the telephone space, and the pay television space," said Michael Keegan, chief executive officer of London-based Mondex. "Our combination of efficient low-value payments over insecure channels with the beenz product is very powerful."
In nine months, 250 Web sites have joined the Beenz network, and the company said it adds 10 to 15 a week.
Philip Letts, chairman and chief executive officer of Beenz.com in New York, said it plans to announce a program with interactive television in January.
He hinted that Mondex may be part of that. There are also plans to implement the beenz program in mobile telephones, using smart cards or just the phones' operating systems.
"Our strategy is to enable consumers to be able to earn beenz at as many places as possible on and off the Web and spend beenz in as many places as possible," Mr. Letts said.
"The smart card is the mechanism that will enable consumers to put the digital world into their back pocket or handbag and make digital currency applications work in the physical real world."
Mondex is developing a "beenz counter" application to run alongside its electronic cash function. The new card is expected to be available by the end of the first quarter, bridging the gap between on-line and traditional merchants.
The two companies are shopping their combined product around to retailers, service providers, and financial services companies.
"The MasterCard-Mondex partnership and arrangement we have is at its core beyond the smart card," Mr. Letts said. "At its core it's with the Multos operating system, which is the operating system of choice for smart cards and chip-based credit and debit cards."
Multos, which grew out of Mondex, is also being used with the American Express Blue card, which, as the first mass-market smart card in the United States, may spur other developments.
Mr. Letts said Mondex's stored-value cash, combined with the beenz loyalty program, would be a good fit for a card such as Blue. He said that other smart credit and debit cards are expected to come out next year and that Mondex and Beenz.com are in discussions with "various parties" to "buy into a more combined solution."