With its reputation for welcoming software developers with open arms solidified two years ago through its acquisition of Mercury Payment Systems, Vantiv Inc. is looking for the next way it can attract and enable innovation.

The Cincinnati-based payment processor and technology provider has launched the pilot phase of DevHub, a portal designed to help developers add payment functions to their software. The DevHub will provide easy-to-use APIs for testing and certifications.

The concept came about because Vantiv realized software developers are key drivers of the evolution of the payments industry, said Daniela Mielke, chief strategy and product officer for Vantiv.

"Vantiv is expanding offerings to different certified developers and it is very much a part of the open network story we have here," Mielke said. "Mercury has been an integral part of that, exposing us to new developer audiences."

But Vantiv says it is the first major payment processor to do it, and the initiative was born from its Integrated Payments division, formerly Mercury Payment Systems. Payments software developers innovate in various segments, from online to offline, in-app or value-add APIs, or creating payments through hand-held devices or as part of a faster payments initiative.

Visa Inc. announced a similar project last month with Visa Developer, opening its network for the first time to advance payment technologies and services.

In its beta phase, DevHub developers will work on products and services that Vantiv can introduce as its own to the market. In the coming months, as Vantiv determines how many merchants enroll for services, the DevHub would ultimately become a place for developers to launch their own products.

Developers have been creating new applications through different platforms for years, but the DevHub brings it all together in a "unified developer experience," Mielke said.

What Vantiv and Visa have essentially done is open up networks to a broader set of developers "beyond your traditional payment geeks," said Tim Sloane, director of emerging technologies advisory services for Boston-based Mercator Advisory Group. "We will see a lot more companies opening up and doing software development this way."

While Vantiv's initial product developments may target merchant services, the industry is going to see software developers also concentrating on payout services, whether it is prepaid, person-to-person or account-to-account, Sloane added.

"A lot of APIs for payments are use-case specific, and they become pretty important for businesses," Sloane said.

If a business is offering a recurring payment setup, it may need an application to do more than just take a card payment. "You need it to send out certain notifications to the consumer indicating you are taking a certain amount on a certain day of the month for the next five months," Sloane said.

Vantiv doesn't get too far ahead of itself in terms of what it expects the DevHub to produce in the coming years.

"We have a roadmap that ... does go two or three years where we know what we want to do, but we want to be flexible for technology and market shifts," Mielke said.

In the first phase of the DevHub, Vantiv wants to make its online processing available to developers, then move into omnichannel processing while keeping the advancement of connected devices, or the Internet of Things, in the forefront, Mielke said. "A next phase would be value-added services around card-not-present fraud," she added.

DevHub should also help companies that operate on legacy payments systems by providing needed software upgrades, she said.

Vantiv doesn't boast of having a crystal ball about where payments technology is headed simply because it is creating a developer's sandbox. In fact, it doesn't particularly want to carry the burden of being the innovator.

"Our platform approach is actually just to build to be resilient in this environment," Mielke said. "We don't have to be the one who understands all of this innovation, but we want to be available to the ones who do and make it easy for them to innovate."

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