My recent column on minimizing credit-card fraud suggested getting retailers out of the loop via a proxy relationship with credit-card processors. This at least minimizes the number of entities with access to sensitive information and could absolutely eliminate theft of such data from retailers, because they would never have the data. OK, this isn't going to happen anytime soon, but others are thinking creatively here - and one firm, Ondot Systems, has now announced a really interesting solution of their own.
What Ondot does is to offer consumers a "remote control" facility, called CardControl, for their credit cards. There are two key elements in this solution - software installed at a card processor or other financial institution offering credit-card services, and an app on the consumer's mobile device (or features added to the financial institution's consumer app). So all of this appears as a value-added service from the "bank", to use that term loosely here, to the consumer. What the consumer gets is a "control panel" for their credit cards - cards can be enabled or disabled on the fly. Transactions can be geofenced, or limited by merchant category (for example, gas stations or online services). Spending limits can be set. And a wide variety of alerts can be delivered to the consumer, adding peace of mind and encouraging usage. The range of fraud monitoring is impressive, and there's a high degree of automation to hold costs down. Ondot represents a huge leap forward in addressing today's credit-card challenges, and I predict many credit-card processors and other financial institutions will adopt this solution - it really is a no-brainer. I'd go out of my way to get a card from an institution offing this service.
Ondot is run by Dr. Vaduvur Bharghavan, whom many of you will remember from his role as CTO at Wi-Fi leader Meru Networks. Dr. Bharghavan is one of the smartest and most creative people I know, and he's joined by Rachna Ahlawat, whom you may also remember from her days running marketing at Meru, and as a wireless analyst for Gartner before that. Anyway, it would be hard to expect anything less than the novel and elegant solution that Ondot is offering from a team like this. I'm expecting to hear a lot more on their success going forward, but the really important message here is that solutions to one of most vexing problems of the mobile age are at hand.