$352 billion-assets U.S. Bank to launch Mitek's Photo Bill Pay in March
"Mobile photo bill pay is the next big imaging solution to be launched," says Jim DeBello, CEO of Mitek. "This could be bigger than mobile check deposit." The potential market is not only existing online bankers but those who are not using online payments and have smartphones. "We think the market could reach 50 million Americans, and that's why we're so excited about this. This is the next big thing," DeBello says. He notes that there are more than 100 million smartphones in the U.S., 600 million worldwide, and that number keeps growing.
Chris Peper, vice president of mobile channel at $352 billion-assets U.S. Bank, calls this "the next step in this imaging innovation journey." The bank was one of the first to pilot NFC technology, mobile check deposit, and mobile P2P.
"We've seen the customer enthusiasm for mobile check capture and want to provide that same level of convenience to bill payment," Peper says. "What we hear from customers is that one of the biggest barriers to the adoption of bill pay is taking the time to do all that data entry, manually inputting the addresses and entering the payment info. It's easy to do transpositions and other typing errors, especially on a mobile device. This puts a very positive, exciting user experience in front of what was a barrier to using the service. We're excited to bring that new perspective to it and we do feel it's an opportunity for us to differentiate in the market."
Turning a paper invoice into an accurate stream of text for a bank's payment processing systems is harder than it may sound. Unlike checks, where each data element (payor, payee, amount due, date) is in a predictable spot and is therefore relatively easily to translate from image to ASCII text, invoices have no standard template. Information is all over the place and can be printed or in block or script handwriting. According to DeBello, Mitek used hundreds of thousands of bills to train its system to read invoices.
"The magic in the algorithms we've created and our sophisticated technology on the back-end, is to enable the camera to think like a brain and to be able to dynamically read those bills," he says.
In U.S. Bank's technology testing, "People have been working really hard to try and find the gaps in service," Peper says. "It's a pretty solid implementation. We tried hard to break it and have not found many opportunities to do that yet."
Making the app easy to use is critical, DeBello says. "What we've discovered in focus groups on bill pay and learnings from mobile deposit is that the experience has to be completely delightful and easy for the consumer, meaning they take one snap and the technology takes over. It corrects the image, preprocesses it, compresses it, encrypts it and extracts the data." The user simply verifies the information and selects when they want to pay the bill and the amount they want to pay.
AlixPartners forecast that mobile photo bill pay adoption could reach 33% among adult U.S. consumers by 2018 and result in 1.4 billion bills migrating to the mobile payment channel.