Mitek, having successfully promoted its imaging technology as a way to deposit checks and pay bills with a smartphone's camera, is now taking aim at retail payments.

"Imaging has passed this critical mass, there's a familiarity about mobile billing…it's been embraced by consumers," says Scott Carter, the chief marketing officer of Mitek. "We have partners coming to us to look for ways to leverage the same experience elsewhere for other purposes."

One of those partners is Kony, an enterprise mobility company. Kony will use Mitek's mobile image technology for bills initially, and it plans to use mobile imaging for payments in retail and other industries.

"The next iteration of mobile is the omni channel experience, to keep customers and add value," says Vijai Shankar, Director of product marketing for Kony.

Kony's offerings include a retail commerce app that integrates shopping with social media and marketing content.  Kony's development platform enables businesses to design, build, test, deploy and manage multi-channel applications. The platform has more than 600 live multi-channel apps, serving more than 20 million users in 45 countries.

Kony plans to integrate Mitek's imaging technology, enabling future uses such as payments that leverage product or invoice data with a link to the consumer's bank account.

"Younger consumers are moving away from traditional banking, from going to branches. Mobile payments is one way that banks can insert themselves," Shankar says.

About 77% of financial institutions now offer mobile remote deposit capture (RDC), up from 22% in 2011, according to Javelin Strategy & Research.  And the demographics for image capture suggest a potential market for card issuers that wish to support retail payments.

"Consumer desire for [RDC] is strong among certain segments, wealthier and younger consumers," says   Daniel Van Dyke, a research specialist at Javelin.

Twenty-nine percent of 25 to 34 year olds say they would definitely use the mobile imaging service, he says. Financial institutions "can target the type of customers they want with the most generous offers," Van Dyke says.

Mitek recently added a patent for camera bill payment, and is now exploring other use cases for mobile imaging, including broader payments. Mitek's technology is currently used primarily by telecoms, utilities, credit card companies and healthcare providers to enable consumers to pay a bill by taking a photo of the invoice. U.S. Bank, BBVA, First Financial, City Bank of Texas are among the banks that use Mitek's photo imaging technology for mobile bill payment. 

There's a technology challenge in using mobile cameras to accept a variety of payments—analysts have said image capture cannot accommodate documents beyond simple checks or utility bills.

Checks are static—the data that needs to be captured in an image is generally in the same location. Utility bills are also similar, Carter says. As image capture's use cases diversify, the technology will be required to spot information that's not always the same. 

To solve that, Mitek uses technology that searches for key words on a larger invoice. "There needs to be fuzzy logic and artificial intelligence to execute bill payments [from unstructured documents]."

In an attempt to ensure quality, Kony will deploy MiSnap, a Mitek mobile capture product that provides real-time feedback to users until an image is properly detected. Once the image is detected, Mitek's photo bill payment allows users to extract data from the invoice to populate fields in a biller's payment app.

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