Toronto-based electronic transaction system developer Mint Inc. is about to launch the second stage of a massive three-phase pilot project involving 1,000 people using a wireless payment solution based on RFID technology. The first phase of the trial, says Frank Maduri , president of Mint, involved a card-based solution with embedded RFID and that the second phase will be to introduce RFID-enabled handsets. The trial is with a large company with approximately 4,000 employees located in the Toronto region.  Mint, a subsidiary of Mint Technology Corp. a publicly traded company, was also tasked with outfitting several locations on the company’s campus, including the cafeteria, the magazine store and other retail outlets. The card is a type of prepaid bank card where users can "load" the card with money to be used at the retail locations on the company’s campus.  Maduri tells Report on Wireless that initial results from the pilot are proving the technology is being well received. He adds that adopting a prepaid model is proving to be the right choice as opposed to linking the cards or phones back to a credit card or bank account.  "What we found after the first month is people load (the card) with about $90. We’re going through a little more of the data and the research and there’s a couple of things this is pointing to: people like the concept of this separate stored value for discretionary spending, but they also like contact-less payment," he says. The second phase of the large-scale trial will also involve providing users with a device that attaches to their key ring or belt loops. Much like the Speed Pass concept used at popular gas stations, users would simply pass the device by or tap it against the RFID reader to initiate and complete the financial transaction.  Determining the most popular form factor and its impact on purchasing is the third stage of the trial, says Maduri . "What does it mean when you use your phone? What about when you have it hanging from your (belt)? Is that even faster? That’s the next phase of where we’re going to see how the form factor makes a difference."  The company is mostly known for its wireless parking payment deployments in the cities of Vancouver (RoW, April 7/04), Toronto and recently in Coral Gables in Florida. People use their cell phones to "turn on" the parking meter and when they’re about to leave the lot, the phone can "turn off" the meter. The charges are applied directly to the user’s cell phone bill.  Drivers behind cashless transactions There are two drivers behind the migration to cashless payments, says Maduri . He explains that there are segments of the population that for a variety of reasons don’t carry credit cards. As well, there are merchants and retailers, which have not implemented accept credit cards as a payment option.  Retailers, merchants and financial institutions were seeking a solution to enabling the "non-credit" segment of the population to make cashless payments. They were also looking for a way to process cashless payments quickly without having to accept debit or credit cards, which sometimes have a longer transaction period.  The company is currently working with MasterCard in issuing pre-paid "credit cards" where the user "fills up" the card with a certain amount of money. Consumers can use the card at any number of retailers and merchants to purchase goods much in the same way as they would a credit card or debit card. The cards are dual mode, so they can be used in both the RFID payment environment and the traditional point of sale situation.  The financial community is starting to take notice of the "relative start-up" and some investment houses have initiated coverage of the Toronto company. "Mint’s parking service business is now well advanced, and revenue should start to build. But the new focus of attention is on the company’s efforts to market and expand its contactless payments cards in association with MasterCard. This is where the company’s future growth lies, and the opportunities are enormous," reads a brief from eResearch.  Northern Securities Inc. notes that the company is well established in the wireless parking payment business having formed relationships with Imperial Parking, Standard Parking, Ideal Parking and the Toronto Parking Authority. This has carried over into prepaid contactless card business as well as Mint has secured partnerships with Mastercard, Peoples Trust, Paymentech, and is in discussions with several top Canadian brands.  "There is tremendous market opportunity for Mint in prepaid cards and it has an early market mover advantage. Early opportunities include cards for teens, the credit challenged and travel cards. Future opportunities exist in government assistance payments, payroll cards and payment solutions for transit systems," reads a research brief.