TORONTO – Scotiabank is using familiar technology in a new way to streamline data capture using digital pens, digital paper and BlackBerry wireless handheld devices.

Seeing familiar technology from a new perspective and exploring emerging technologies and business concepts were the main themes at this year’s MindShift 2006 conference hosted by Allstream.

Scotiabank, for example, was looking for efficiencies in the highly competitive residential mortgage business by improving the application process used by salespeople. While it wanted to increase revenues for the bank, it didn’t want to push new technology down to users.

“Their comfort zone is pen and paper,” said Nando De Francesco, manager of business innovations with Scotiabank.

Bluetooth-enabled
The bank embarked on a proof-of-concept with Allstream to pilot digital technology. Its salespeople use digital pens that scan as they write; they can be Bluetooth-enabled for wireless connectivity or used in conjunction with a docking station. Digital paper uses small black dots in mathematical patterns to map handwriting. Ink recognition software converts handwriting to text, while IP connectivity transmits data to the back end.

Scotiabank chose to use BlackBerry devices over a wireless network. Using the Think mobile wireless solution, handwritten information is forwarded to the server over a secure communications link using BlackBerry devices.

“The business process doesn’t change,” said De Francesco. “All we’re doing is digitizing the capture of data.” While it’s still too early in the process to determine ROI, the real benefit will come from salespeople processing more deals than they would have in the past.

Other benefits include cost savings, since it eliminates redundant data entry and scanning, and streamlined workflow and automatic backup. Another benefit is that the business process remains unchanged. “Technology adoption is virtually non-existent,” he said, since it’s just like using a pen and paper.

Other potential applications for the technology include account opening, security log book, signature capture and privacy compliance.

Another technology that is actually changing business processes is virtual payment, including chip-based technology in credit cards and using debit cards to pay online.

Online debit payments are already a reality with retailers such as La Senza and The Source, but the concept doesn’t have a lot of publicity yet.

“Retailers are realizing their existing POS systems must be upgraded to accommodate new technology,” said Amer Matar, vice-president of product development with Moneris Solutions. Retailers want to move customers more quickly through checkout lines and provide more payment options but their systems are, on average, eight years old.

Data packet networks are becoming obsolete as IP penetrates the market, said Matar. The company’s network provides an always-on connection for merchants to connect with Moneris.

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