Pencils and paper aren't normally associated with digital payments innovation—yet those tools may inspire a big project with FreedomPay and Barclays.
"Watching [developers] start literally from a blank piece of paper and a concept, sketch an idea with stick figures and arrows, and then get down to actually coding that idea against our platform borders on 'magical' for those of us that sleep and breathe payments," says Andrea Waldin, vice president of marketing for FreedomPay.
FreedomPay and Barclays are participating in the #DigitalWalletFoundry event, which started March 18 and runs through March 22, at the Modern Jago, a tech developers' venue in London's East End. #DWF is a Microsoft-led gathering of tech companies, payment startups, financial institutions and other digital commerce players.
The event, which includes development sessions that are informally referred to as "hackathons," is meant to be more loose than a traditional conference or sales presentation—and is designed to encourage real-time coding and engineering among tech companies and prospective clients.
A development team from Barclays is working on coding a new app that will leverage FreedomPay's technology, Waldin says. There was both a speed and collaborative benefit to working in close quarters, Waldin says.
"We basically say 'here's our tech, here's the coding that needs to be done to get your goal accomplished, and here's how you can go about doing it,'" Waldin says.
Barclays did not respond by deadline to requests for comment.
At the event, developers build 'proof of concept' demonstrations, with awards and recognition for products conceived and developed during the week. Programmers have access to the full suite of programming tools that drive Microsoft's SEEK Commerce Platform.
The presentations and networking also provide a window onto industry trends, such as bundling shopping and payments functions into a single mobile or Web app.
"Payments-as-service is really spreading like wildfire," Waldin says.
FreedomPay, a Microsoft payments partner that recently introduced its Vibe mobile wallet, also demonstrated its SEEK-driven offers and mobile payments system for banks and retailers. Fortuma, a Telfonica partner, demonstrated its mobile carrier-billing technology for digital content purchases. Other participants included BizSpark, a company that provides tech support for startups; Paymill, a digital payments company; Droplet, a mobile money app maker; and Birdback, which makes an app platform for payment cards.
"Common topics discussed included the challenges of [Near Field Communication] for payments," says Colin Kerr, industry solutions manage for Microsoft. "Although a valuable and exciting technology, payments scenarios with NFC are a little limited. Mobile phones can also be extensively for remote commerce and payment scenarios where NFC will not be possible. However, QR codes are a popular and growing alternative."
Hackathons are expanding in tech development circles as "a way to get entrepreneurial firms and customers together and target product development in a very short period of time," says Andy Schmidt, a research director at CEB TowerGroup.
"It's kind of like speed dating with a product on the other end of the line," Schmidt says. "It shows the investors and the banks what the developers can do a in a specific timeframe."