Mitek Systems Inc. is debuting a mobile application that enables consumers to pay their bills using images of the bills captured with their smartphones.
The Mobile Photo Bill Pay product is an extension of the San Diego-based company’s remote deposit capture technology that banks offer consumers to deposit checks using check images captured with the cameras on their phones.
“What a consumer really wants to have in their hip, or their wallet, is a remote control to their finances, and the things that are popping up are remote deposit,” says Mark Schwanhausser, a senior analyst Javelin Strategy & Research. “This one has this kind of wow factor–the idea of taking a snap shot of the bill.”
The software can identify any bills regardless of format, and consumers will be able to pay any merchant, says James DeBello, Mitek CEO. “Snap a picture of any bill, or invoice, and we convert the image and extract the data for bill pay,” he says.
Billers also may use the technology to enroll new customers with online bill pay, making it easier for consumers to make repeat payments online. Users also will be able to determine when they want those bills paid, and whether they want to pay a partial or full amount.
Just as Mitek’s check-capture technology fought a trend of declining check use, Mobile Photo Bill Pay fights the ongoing electronification of consumer bills. Many consumers today have the option of turning off paper bill delivery in favor of receiving statements electronically and having billers take their payments automatically.
Many consumers prefer to receive their bills by mail, even if they have the option not to do so, DeBello says. “We understand the future of a paperless society, but we have been hearing that since the 1970s,” he says.
Even for those who prefer electronic billing, Mitek’s technology would be useful for those one-off payments with billers that may not be enrolled already in a consumer’s online bill pay, such as a contractor or exterminator, DeBello says. Mitek calls them “ad-hoc” bills.
George Peabody, director of emerging technologies at Mercator Advisory Group, agrees that Mitek’s system is most useful for “those bills that you get from service providers, plumbers and installation companies, and folks like that. When you only do business with them once, hopefully this might be a service that would save you time,” he says.
However, consumers’ willingness to use the service will depend on how banks price it, Peabody says.
“Pricing is going to matter, and [banks] have the double challenge of not only getting consumers to use this service but merchants to use this service as well,” he says.
It is too early to determine what banks will charge, but their fees likely would be comparable to how banks price other mobile-banking services, DeBello says.
Consumers could pay a fee for bills they want paid right away, he says. Merchants also could pay for extra security on the payments they receive from the application.
Mitek already has started shopping the technology around to banks and their vendors. DeBello expects his company to make announcements about partnerships within the next “quarter or two.”
The application does have obstacles to overcome, however, analysts say.
“One of them would be trying to make sure it works appropriately, with the picture-taking being done,” says Schwanhausser. “If it doesn’t perform as promised, then it’s going to be a kind of dud.”
Marketing also may be an issue, as banks have done a very poor job at pitching their mobile wares, Schwanhausser says. “Banks have to get out there and tout it,” he says.
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