New technology that enables wireless communication between a credit card and computers has caught the eye of Visa International and a large Visa-issuing bank that plans to start testing it with consumers in the next six weeks.
Alan Sege, senior vice president of business affairs for ComSense, said the bank has "good positioning on the Internet" and plans to test several hundred thousand cards. He would not name the bank.
The ComSense card, from ComSense Technologies Ltd. of New York, combines the functions of a Web wallet and point of sale machine, but its developers say the device is not a smart card - though it can act as one - and does not need any new hardware, such as the reader required by the American Express Blue card.
When consumers push a tiny button on the card's surface, it transmits digitized information through high-pitched sound waves to any standard computer equipped with a microphone and sound card. The sound waves, in conjunction with a small software download, can authenticate user access to a Web site, verify and complete credit card transactions on the Web and automatically fill in a user's form data.
The card can also work offline as a standard magnetic stripe card, or smart card.
"We want to put the power in the card and turn it into something that will attract origination for the banks," said Alon Atsmon, president and chief executive officer of ComSense, a two-year-old company that recently named Visa International CEO Malcolm Williamson chairman of its board.
Visa spokesman Michael Sherman said a Visa International development program looks at many emerging companies that "can provide innovative technology in the payments industry. ComSense is one of those companies."
Some observers have their doubts about the ComSense card. Thad Peterson, a partner at Edgar Dunn & Co. in Atlanta, said the upside is that it eliminates the need to key-enter card information.
On the other hand, he said, consumers must learn how to use it, and "any device that adds complication to a transaction has a lesser chance" of catching on.