Oti Goes Fishing in NFC Waters
By Cate Chapman (@journo2u)
Oti has spent the last decade refocusing on what it does best: providing cashless payment solutions to such industries as vending, parking and petroleum that need them.
In fact, the company won the silver medal for Best Comeback Story at the PYMNTS Innovator Awards ceremony, held last week at Annenberg Hall on the campus of Harvard University. The event, on the final evening of Innovation Project 2014, is viewed as the most prestigious recognition awards in the payments industry and dozens of companies represented there vied for medals and other honors in more than 15 categories.
Key to this comeback has been the latest innovation in the company’s Near Field Communication (NFC)-based technology, which won certification last month for inclusion on Visa’s compliant products list. The new OTI WAVE is an NFC add-on for smartphones, tablets and PCs.
“With certification from two of the world’s largest payments networks – Visa and MasterCard – our WAVE technology platform is poised for large-scale implementation with banks, payment card providers, public transportation projects, loyalty and rewards programs” and others, said Ofer Tziperman, oti’s CEO.
The key fob device can also be used separately for electronic payment at mass transit gates and vending machines. When the pre-paid balance runs low, it can be plugged into a smartphone to add funds to its ePurse.
Such innovation and streamlining, including the sale of its ID card business, contributed to a rebound in sales and profit last year. Oti reported net income of $2.1 million in the third quarter, versus a net loss of $2.6 million a year earlier. Revenue rose 27 percent to $6.8 million, driven primarily by a more-than-doubling of sales of NFC readers to the U.S. market.
The U.S. market
The readers allow vendors to retrofit their machines to accept cashless payments, a development that tends to increase the value and number of purchases by consumers. There are currently about 9 million, mostly cash-operated vending machines in the U.S. that the company is targeting, Tziperman said.
Oti is also making inroads with its NFC devices into the U.S. parking market. The company has sold systems that allow local governments to collect fees and data more efficiently to Austin, Texas, and Concord, N.H.
“It’s a no-brainer for the municipality,” said Tziperman. “It’s expensive to maintain meters.”
The NFC devices, easily affixed by consumers to the windshields of their cars, for example, can help them avoid over- or under-spending at a meter, while allowing municipalities to reap data on revenue collection and the availability of spaces.
Fuel and beyond
Data is also critical to oti’s petroleum business, where it has introduced a “Moon Tag,” or smart read-write strip mounted around the fuel inlet of a vehicle. A nozzle fitted with the reader automatically establishes communication when inserted into the vehicle. Once payment card details are verified, fuel can be dispensed.
This evolution in the company’s “EasyFuel Plus” system, originally designed for commercial fleet owners, makes it friendly to consumers, who will now be able to pay for fuel without swiping their credit card or going into a convenience store, Tziperman said. Loyalty points can also be awarded automatically.
Oti, founded 24 years ago, is enjoying a renaissance, according to Tziperman, who himself returned a few years ago to the company he helped to start.
“Our claim to fame is that we are not a startup,” he said. “We have a wide array of patents, with proven field technology in 56 countries and a platform that can accommodate all niche markets.”