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27 Jun 2014

The Paperless End-to-End Expense Transaction

The Paperless End-to-End Expense Transaction

Earlier this week we were granted a patent in the US for NFC-based business expense transactions. This is an exciting development for Serko as it's an important piece of IP and it's unusual for non-US companies to be granted a US patent.

The back story to the patent is interesting – as an organisation intimately involved in the travel and expense management market we play close attention to developments that we think have the potential to change the way that business travelers interact with the world around them. One such innovation we picked up on very early was NFC. As business travelers are heavy mobile users it seemed to us highly likely that NFC would ultimately come to play an important role in the way that business travelers interact with the world around them. 

The holy grail in the corporate expense management world is the 'paperless end-to-end expense transaction', which is effectively what our patent covers. In practice, it means that a business traveller would use her NFC-enabled phone, with her corporate credit card stored in a digital wallet, to complete an expense transaction. However, rather than being handed a paper receipt post–transaction, which she would ordinarily keep and scan later, the mobile device would receive a digital receipt from the terminal (via NFC) that would be sent automatically to her corporate expense management system, without her having to touch it.

What’s exciting is that the US is already starting the roll out of two-way NFC enabled payment terminals, which is the precursor to us being able to deliver the paperless end to end expense transaction. The following video appeared on YouTube recently showing the technology in action and is worth a watch. The .pdf, which is received by the device after the transaction, would simply be forwarded to the travelers ERP system via a local expense management application on the device – something that is commonplace today.

The recent acquisition of Micros by Oracle may, in some way, be related to NFC-based transactions. Micros already supports NFC in many of it’s point-of-sale terminals, so it’s possible that Oracle (a major ERP vendor) are seeing the paperless transaction the same way we do, which is really exciting. 

Of course, there will always be a role for credit cards. After all, what else are we going to use to scrape the ice of our windscreens on winter mornings?

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