Safer web sales could be just a click away

Wicklow company Actus Mobile Solutions is a small start-up company with a big ambition.

It aims to establish itself as the leading provider of mobile transaction security globally.

Offering a solution, which it believes to be the world’s most secure mobile transaction platform, the company has launched in the UK and is now in negotiations with several mobile app and e-commerce developers and some large retailers.

Company co-founder and chief marketing officer, Tony Burke says the growth of mobile commerce is being hampered by security issues.

“Mobile checkout abandonment is extremely high, estimated at 90% in some studies.

“At present mobile commerce accounts for 25% of online sales in Ireland and the UK, although over 50% of web traffic is now on mobiles. There is huge scope for a company which can solve these security problems.”

He says that difficulties are caused by the “3D secure” payment process, which is more difficult on mobiles than online, and by deficiencies in the industry standard for secure mobile payments which he describes as being “fatally flawed”.

Based at the IDA Business Park in Bray, where it employs a staff of six, Actus Mobile is starting with the UK market with a view to going global in 2014.

Actus Mobile was originally set up in 2010 by Mr Burke, formerly a director of International Internet Strategy at Microsoft, to develop mobile apps for the retail market.

In 2011, it merged with SMC Technologies which had been set up by Ray Breen to develop secure mobile payments technology in 2006, before the advent of smartphones.

Now the chief technical officer at Actus, Mr Breen is an engineer who previously worked for several multinationals including Digital Equipment Corporation.

As a result of the merger, m:Cypher was used in the retail apps developed by Actus Mobile to allow for secure purchases.

It has developed apps providing retail information for John Lennon Airport in Liverpool and for Dundrum Shopping Centre. “Last year, we launched a Multi Mall project in Portugal, which involves 13 shopping centres, and our first deployment of m:Cypher was in an app for, an Irish racing website,” reveals Mr Burke.

Initially m:Cypher was used as an add-on to the company’s apps which offered information on large retail operations and airports.

“In 2012 we were working on retail projects when we realised that the technology for secure payments offered more opportunities than app development” says Mr Burke.

Embarking on what he describes as “a strategic pivot”, the company changed focus and began to concentrate on developing m:Cypher in order to market it to app development companies, retailers and online payments companies.

To fund the change in direction, Actus raised €500,000 in private investment.

It was also identified as a high potential start-up by Enterprise Ireland, which invested a further €200,000 in the company.

Funding enabled the company to develop the technology, and in May this year, m:Cypher SDK was launched, a plug in which can be used by application developers to enhance their apps.

“Moving in to the UK market, Enterprise Ireland put us on a retailer ready programme — which helps Irish companies move in to the e-Commerce and m-Commerce space,” explains Mr Burke.

Now Actus is in discussions with a variety of companies — including app developers, retailers and financial institutions.

One potential customer has yearly sales of £200m (€233m) worth of sports goods online, while others include app developers for large, well-known British retailers.

The aim now is to build up some reference sites in the UK before launching in the US and Europe in 2014.

Part of the plan is to start fundraising for an additional €500,000 to spend on R&D and sales.

Mr Burke says that up until now, they have been focusing on the retail sector; “but there are other markets we haven’t addressed. We can adapt our technology for use in data protection, health records and insurance. We are also looking at the tablet market”.

Tablets are used differently from mobiles and the sector is now being called sofa commerce because people watch TV with tablets on their laps. We are looking at ways of creating interaction between tablets and smart TVs.”

While the company is talking to app developers, payment providers and retailers, he says that — in the future — the company plans to approach network operators with a view to having the m:Cypher technology built into phones.

“The mobile commerce market is heading for between $600bn (€460bn) and one trillion dollars in the next three years.

“Whoever solves the security and ease-of-use problems for this market — on a global scale — will be a very significant company. We are hoping that this is going to be us.”


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