Diebold Racks Up Patents Covering Mobile Banking

Article excerpt

Diebold Inc. is staking its claim on technologies that use cellular phones and other mobile devices to interact with automated teller machines and with other payments systems.

The North Canton, Ohio, ATM maker plans to announce today that it has received several patents for methods of connecting mobile devices to banking systems.

Jim Block, Diebold's director of global advanced technology, said the company has received five patents over the past 18 months or so and has more applications pending before the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

"These are adding to the ways in which you can interact with your financial institution," he said.

Perhaps the most noteworthy patent enables a bank network to receive wireless communications of information such as customer bank account numbers and account values. That might appear to make a broad claim about checking a balance wirelessly, a basic feature of nascent mobile banking services, but Diebold said this patent defines how a wireless device communicates with a bank network to dispense cash and assess a customer's account for the value of the cash dispensed.

Mr. Block said the patent covers technology "specifically to dispense cash out of the ATM." Existing wireless banking technologies largely involve "logical transactions" and the transfer of funds or information such as a balance inquiry, he said.

"Our patent portfolio in the mobile space is about physically interacting with something relating to transactions," he said. "As far as we know, no one is implementing this yet."

Bob Egan, the director of the emerging-technologies practice at TowerGroup of Needham, Mass., an independent research group owned by MasterCard Inc., said such developments are not only to be expected, but are necessary to the creation of new markets.

"I think it's a natural step in the evolution of mobile banking," he said. "It doesn't curtail development."

Mr. Egan cited the debate over "push e-mail," which had been patented by another company long before Research in Motion Ltd. popularized the technology through its BlackBerry e-mail pads.

"Ten years later, RIM finds itself in the throes of a huge lawsuit," he said. "It didn't curtail the development."

Mr. Block said years of work went into the research. The patents, the most recent of which was issued in April, are for applications the company filed two to three years ago, on research that began in the early 2000s, when banks began to develop applications for mobile devices. …