The success of the next step in electronic commerce will depend on how well computer companies work with financial services firms - banks, money transmitters, companies such as Cyber-Cash in Reston, Va. - to do electronic funds transfer, otherwise known as moving money electronically.
Some of the newest software, including IBM's Electronic Purchasing Service, allows electronic funds transfer and theoretically reduces paperwork even further. IBM can charge a fee for each transaction, known as "micropayments," which can add up to big bucks.
This is the beginning of what the CyberCash founders and a few others have been predicting: Someday we will have an electronic "wallet" in our computers that can send and receive real money. This will eliminate paper invoices and make much less work for accounts payable and receivable departments.
So high-tech businesses are forming alliances with financial services companies to determine this crucial part of the process. The more companies on the same page - meaning using the same technology standard - the better.
The banking industry, for its part, needs to get better at technology. So far the most significant step was the formation in September of Integrion Financial Network, an interactive banking and electronic commerce company made up of IBM and 15 big banks, including NationsBank and Bank of America.
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