Title:
VALUE-ADDED SERVICES ENGINE
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Systems and methods for conducting a transaction using a Value-Added Services Engine. The method initiates sending transaction information with a product identifier identifying a product associated with a transaction conducted between a merchant and a consumer to the Value-Added Services Engine. The Value-Added Services Engine is programmed to determine a benefit associated with the product. The benefit is determined after communicating with a supplier of the product. The method also receives an indication of the benefit.



Inventors:
Hammad, Ayman (Pleasanton, CA, US)
Faith, Patrick (Pleasanton, CA, US)
Application Number:
12/257987
Publication Date:
04/30/2009
Filing Date:
10/24/2008
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
705/26.1, 705/28
International Classes:
G06Q30/00
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
NGUYEN, THUY N
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Visa / Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP (Atlanta, GA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A method for conducting a transaction, the method comprising: initiating sending transaction information with a product identifier identifying a product associated with a transaction conducted between a merchant and a consumer to a service engine, wherein the service engine is programmed to determine or receive a benefit associated with the product, wherein the benefit is determined after communicating with a supplier of the product; and receiving an indication of the benefit.

2. The method of claim 1, wherein the benefit varies based a quantity of the product in an inventory of the supplier.

3. The method of claim 2, wherein the supplier checks the inventory and determines a value of the benefit based on the quantity of the product in the inventory, and wherein the supplier sends a message to the service engine with the value of the benefit.

4. The method of claim 1, further comprising selecting the benefit, wherein the service engine updates the transaction information to include the benefit.

5. The method of claim 1, wherein the supplier is a manufacturer of the product.

6. The method of claim 1, wherein the consumer initiates sending the transaction information to the service engine.

7. The method of claim 6, wherein the consumer initiates sending the transaction information to the service engine using a mobile communication device.

8. The method of claim 1, wherein the merchant initiates sending the transaction information to the service engine.

9. A computer readable medium, comprising: code for initiating sending transaction information with a product identifier identifying a product associated with a transaction conducted between a merchant and a consumer to a service engine, wherein the service engine is programmed to determine a benefit associated with the product, wherein the benefit is determined after communicating with a supplier of the product; and code for receiving an indication of the benefit.

10. A mobile communication device, comprising: a computer readable medium comprising code for initiating sending transaction information with a product identifier identifying a product associated with a transaction conducted between a merchant and a consumer to a service engine, wherein the service engine is programmed to determine or receive a benefit associated with the product, wherein the benefit is determined after communicating with a supplier of the product, and code for receiving an indication of the benefit; and a processor in communication with the computer readable medium.

11. A method comprising: receiving transaction information with a product identifier identifying a product associated with a transaction conducted between a merchant and a consumer; determining or receiving a benefit associated with the product, wherein the benefit is determined or received after communicating with a supplier of the product; and sending an indication of the benefit.

12. The method of claim 1, wherein the benefit varies based a quantity of the product in an inventory of the supplier.

13. The method of claim 1, further comprising receiving a message from the supplier indicating a value of the benefit, wherein the supplier determined the value of the benefit based on the quantity of the product in the inventory.

14. The method of claim 1, further comprising updating the transaction information to include the benefit.

15. The method of claim 1, wherein the indication is sent to an access device.

16. The method of claim 1, wherein the indication is sent to a mobile communication device.

17. The method of claim 1, wherein the transaction information is received from an access device.

18. The method of claim 1, wherein the transaction information is received from a mobile communication device.

19. A computer readable medium comprising code for performing the method of claim 11.

20. A server computer configured to perform the method of claim 11.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCES TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This patent application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/982,682 filed Oct. 25, 2007, entitled “Mobile Phone Payment System and Method,” which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety for all purposes.

BACKGROUND

Products suppliers sometimes need to move products from their inventory. For example, product suppliers may need to reduce inventory of products that are slow-moving or overstocked, to reduce the cost of holding and maintaining inventory. As another example, product suppliers may want to reduce inventory of products nearing the end of their shelf life to limit potential loss of inventory.

To reduce inventory, product suppliers sometimes sell their products in bulk to liquidators or generally discount the price of their products to all buyers. Product suppliers usually lose sales revenue when selling in bulk. Product suppliers do not necessarily target potential buyers effectively when discounting the price of their products to all buyers. In addition, general discounts can be expensive to advertise.

Embodiments of this disclosure address these and other problems.

SUMMARY

Embodiments of the disclosure relate to methods and systems for using a Value-Added Service Engine (VASE) to conduct a transaction. An embodiment of the disclosure is directed to a method for conducting a transaction. The method initiates sending transaction information with a product identifier identifying a product associated with a transaction conducted between a merchant and a consumer to a service engine. The service engine is programmed to determine and receive a benefit associated with the product, wherein the benefit is determined after communicating with a supplier of the product. The method also receives an indication of the benefit. In some cases, the benefit varies based a quantity of the product in an inventory of the supplier.

Another embodiment is directed to a computer readable medium that has code for initiating sending transaction information with a product identifier identifying a product associated with a transaction conducted between a merchant and a consumer to a service engine. The service engine is programmed to determine and receive a benefit associated with the product. The benefit is determined after communicating with a supplier of the product. The computer readable medium also has code for receiving an indication of the benefit.

Another embodiment is directed to a mobile communication device (e.g., a phone) having a computer readable medium and a process in communication with the computer readable medium. The computer readable medium has code for initiating sending transaction information with a product identifier identifying a product associated with a transaction conducted between a merchant and a consumer to a service engine. The service engine is programmed to determine and receive a benefit associated with the product. The benefit is determined after communicating with a supplier of the product. The computer readable medium also has code for receiving an indication of the benefit.

Another embodiment is directed to a method of receiving transaction information with a product identifier identifying a product associated with a transaction conducted between a merchant and a consumer. The method also determines or receives a benefit associated with the product, wherein the benefit is determined after communicating with a supplier of the product. The method also sends an indication of the benefit.

These and other embodiments of the disclosure are described in further detail below.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a block diagram of an exemplary system for conducting a transaction using a Value-Added Services Engine (VASE), in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 2 is a schematic drawing of an exemplary mobile communication device in the form of a mobile phone, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 3 is a block diagram of the basic components that may reside in an exemplary access device, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 4 is a flowchart illustrating a method for using a Value-Added Service Engine (VASE) to conduct a transaction, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

FIGS. 5-7 are illustrations depicting exemplary displays on access devices and mobile communication devices, in accordance with embodiments of the invention.

FIG. 8 shows a block diagram of subsystems that may be present in computer apparatuses, in accordance with embodiments of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Embodiments of the disclosure are directed to methods and systems that use a service engine such as a Value-Added Service Engine (VASE) to conduct a transaction. Generally, a consumer selects items at a merchant. The merchant enters information about the items into an access device (e.g., a point-of-sale terminal). The access device sends transaction information including product identifiers to VASE. VASE determines and provides benefits (e.g., coupons) associated with the products. As an example, VASE may request coupons from a supplier of the products. The supplier may determine a quantity of the products in their inventory. If a product is overstocked (i.e., in excess inventory), slow-moving, or nearing the end of their shelf life, the supplier may decide to send a coupon to encourage the consumer to purchase the product. The value of the coupon may be directly related to the quantity of the product in the supplier's inventory. VASE then sends the coupon to the consumer. The consumer decides whether to use the coupon and/or request payment to the merchant. If the consumer decides to use the coupon, VASE updates the transaction information to reflect the discount from the coupon and sends the updated transaction information to the issuer of a consumer's account for authorization. The issuer sends a message authorizing (or declining) the transaction to the merchant to complete the transaction.

In the above-described embodiments, the VASE may communicate with suppliers during a transaction, in substantially real-time, to obtain appropriate coupons for the consumer's current transaction, or a future transaction conducted by the consumer. In other embodiments, the VASE may obtain appropriate coupons for the consumer before the consumer conducts a transaction with a merchant.

Certain embodiments of the disclosure may provide one or more advantages to consumers, merchants, manufacturers, and others. An advantage to consumers may be that these methods and systems give consumers information about benefits associated with the products at the point of sale that may not otherwise be available to them. For example, consumers can be given dynamic and up-to date discounts on products based on the quantity of products in a supplier's inventory. As another example, consumers can be given information about healthcare benefits that apply to the products in the transaction such as Flexible Spending Account (FSA) benefits. Knowing these benefits apply, consumers can make a more informed purchasing decision at the point of sale. In addition, consumers can save money by applying benefits and changing items in their transaction based upon available benefits.

An advantage to suppliers such as merchants and manufacturers may be that these methods and systems provide an avenue for optimizing their inventories. Suppliers can vary discounts to consumers based on the quantity of products currently in their inventories. By varying the discounts, suppliers can control the rate of movement of their products from their inventories. This gives the suppliers the ability to provide discounts as needed to control the quantities of products in their inventories. By optimizing inventories, suppliers can reduce their costs in maintaining their inventory. Also, suppliers can increase their sales revenue by optimally adjusting the discounts and avoiding liquidators.

Certain embodiments of the disclosure may include none, some, or all of the above technical advantages. One or more other technical advantages may be readily apparent to one skilled in the art from the figures, descriptions, and claims included herein.

I. Exemplary Systems

FIG. 1 is a block diagram of an exemplary system 10 that uses VASE 70(a) to conduct a transaction, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention. System 10 includes a consumer 20 in operative communication with a mobile communication device 30. System 10 also includes a merchant 50 in communication with consumer 20 directly and through mobile communication device 30. System 10 also includes an acquirer 60 (e.g., a bank) associated with merchant 50 and in communication with merchant 50.

System 10 also includes a payment processing network 70 having a VASE 70(a) for determining benefits associated with products/services identified in a purchase transaction. System 10 also includes a manufacturer 80, a healthcare network 82, and a government organization 84, all in communication with payment processing network 70. Payment processing network 70 is in communication with mobile communication device 30, and merchant 50 through acquirer 60. Although the illustrated embodiment shows three potential benefit providers—manufacturer 80, healthcare network 82, and government organization 84—any suitable number or type of benefit providers may be present in other embodiments of the invention.

System 10 also includes an issuer 90 having an account with consumer 20. Issuer 90 is communication with payment processing network 70 to authorize (or decline) payments to merchant 50 based on information provided by payment processing network 70.

Although VASE 70(a) is shown as being part of payment processing network 70, it may be outside payment processing network 70 in other embodiments. Also, VASE 70(a) may be embodied by software that resides on one or more computers within payment processing network 70. Further, any of the functions performed by VASE 70(a) may be embodied by computer code, and/or instructions which may be executed by one or more processors in payment processing network 70.

Consumer 20 may be an individual or an organization such as a business that is capable of using mobile communication device 30 to conduct a transaction such as a purchase of goods and/or services. Consumer 20 has an account with issuer 90 that is associated with mobile communication device 30.

Mobile communication device 30 can be any suitable wireless device that allows consumer 20 to conduct transactions with merchant 50 and communicate information with other entities such as payment processing network 70. Some examples of suitable devices include cellular or wireless phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), pagers, portable computers, and the like. Mobile communication device 30 may be in any suitable form. For example, suitable mobile communication devices can be hand-held and compact so that they can fit into a consumer's wallet and/or pocket (e.g., pocket-sized).

Mobile communication device 30 communicates information to other system entities using any suitable form of communication. Some examples of suitable forms of communication include a short message service (SMS) message such as a text message, a multimedia media message (MMS), a phone call, a voice message, a voicemail message, an instant messaging (IM) message, an email message, etc.

Merchant 50 can be any suitable entity that conducts transactions with consumer 20 using mobile communication device 30. Some examples of merchants 50 include a department store, a gas station, a drug store, a grocery store, or other suitable business. Merchant 50 may use any suitable method to conduct the transaction.

Access device 52 can be any suitable device for communicating with merchant 50 and for interacting with mobile communication device 30. Examples of suitable devices include point of sale (POS) devices, cellular phones, PDAs, personal computers (PCs), tablet PCs, handheld specialized readers, set-top boxes, electronic cash registers (ECRs), automated teller machines (ATMs), virtual cash registers (VCRs), kiosks, security systems, access systems, and the like. Access device 52 may use any suitable contact or contactless mode of operation to communicate data to and from mobile communication device 30. For example, access device 52 can use a wireless communication mode including near field communication such as Bluetooth, infrared, etc.

Access device 52 can have a computer readable medium (CRM). Computer readable medium may be a memory that stores data and may be in any suitable form. A suitable computer readable medium comprises code having instructions for performing the functions of the access device 52. For example, a suitable computer readable medium may include code for sending transaction information to consumer 20 or VASE 70(a). Access device 52 may also include a processor coupled to the computer readable medium for performing the functions of the access device 52.

“Transaction information” can refer to any suitable information related to the purchase transaction conducted between consumer 20 and merchant 50. Some examples of suitable information include a list of the items in the transaction, a description of the items, item identifiers, product/service identifiers (e.g., stock keeping units or SKUs), a merchant ID, an access device ID (e.g., POS terminal ID), prices of the items being purchased, the total number of items, the transaction amount, a tax amount, an electronic signature from merchant 50, a time of the transaction, benefits information, and other suitable information related to the transaction.

A “supplier” can refer to any suitable entity that holds an inventory of products or services for sale to consumer 20. Suitable suppliers include merchants such as retailers or wholesalers, manufacturers, or other suitable entities.

An “inventory” can refer to the products or services that are available for sale to consumer 20. In the illustrated embodiment, merchant 50 and manufacturer 80 hold an inventory of products/services for sale to consumer 20. Manufacturer 80 has an inventory of products that can be sold directly to consumer 20 or can be sent to merchant 50 for sale to consumer 20. In other embodiments, other suppliers may hold inventories of products/services for sale to consumer 20.

Acquirer 60 can be any suitable entity that has an account with merchant 50. For example, acquirer 60 may be a bank that operates a bank account for merchant 50.

Payment processing network 70 may include data processing subsystems, networks, and operations used to support and deliver value-added services such as providing benefits associated with products in a purchase transaction, authorization services, exception file services, and clearing and settlement services. An exemplary payment processing network 70 may include VisaNet™. Payment processing networks such as VisaNet™ are able to process credit card transactions, debit card transactions, and other types of commercial transactions. VisaNet™, in particular, includes a VIP system (Visa Integrated Payments system) which processes authorization requests and a Base II system which performs clearing and settlement services.

In the illustrated embodiment, payment processing network 70 includes VASE 70(a). VASE 70(a) can be one or more software modules programmed to determine and provide “value-added services” or “benefits” associated with products/services in a purchase transaction with consumer 20. A “benefit” can refer to any suitable advantage or assistance given to consumer 20 associated with products/services in the purchase transaction. Some examples of “benefits” include coupons or other discounts, gift cards, cash back, and other suitable benefits.

VASE 70(a) is in communication with manufacturer 80, healthcare network 82, and government organization 84 to request benefits, send transaction information, and receive benefit information. Although one manufacturer 80, one healthcare network 82, and one government organization 84 are shown in the illustrated embodiment, additional benefit providers may be included in other embodiments. Benefits may be embodied by coupons (e.g., electronic coupons) which provide a consumer with a discount, points, rewards, etc.

Manufacturer 80 or merchant 50 can provide coupons to VASE 70(a). A “manufacturer” can refer to an entity that manufactures one or more products identified in the transaction.

Healthcare network 82 can provide healthcare benefits to VASE 70(a). Healthcare network 82 can be any suitable entity that can provide healthcare benefits to consumer 20. For example, healthcare network 82 can be a health insurance organization that has a policy with consumer 20. Healthcare benefits refer to benefits provided by healthcare network 82 (e.g., health insurance company) associated with consumer 20. As an example, consumer 20 can have a flexible spending account (FSA) that allows consumer 20 to purchase certain prescription drug products or healthcare services with pre-tax funds. VASE 70(a) may determine whether consumer 20 has a FSA, whether there are funds left in the FSA, and whether the products/services in the purchase transaction apply under the FSA. As another example, consumer 20 may have an insurance policy with healthcare network 82 that provides a benefit of discounts on eligible prescription drug products and healthcare services.

Government organization 84 can provide government benefits to VASE 70(a). Government organization 84 can be any state, federal, or municipal government organization that may provide benefits to consumer 20 associated with the purchase of products in the transaction. Government benefits refer to benefits provided by government organization 84 (e.g., state and federal governments) to a consumer 20 qualified under a government benefit program. For example, a government benefit may be a federal benefit such as food stamps available to a qualified consumer 20 under the federal benefit program. As another example, a government benefit may be medical and health-related services or low-cost prescription drugs available under Medicaid or other similar program.

Benefits or the value of benefits determined or received by VASE 70(a) can vary from one transaction to another. In some embodiments, a determined benefit (e.g., a coupon with a discount) varies based on the quantity of the product available in inventory at the supplier such as merchant 30 and/or manufacturer 80. For example, the benefit may have a greater value if the product is overstocked i.e. in excess inventory. As another example, the benefit may be zero if the product is in low inventory. In yet another example, the benefit may have a very high value for a certain portion of products in its inventory that are nearing the end of their shelf life. In another example, the benefit may be very high for all products left in inventory to make room for new models. In these examples, VASE 70(a) may communicate with the supplier of the product and request a benefit (e.g., a coupon) associated with a product identified in a transaction. In response, the supplier may determine the quantity of the product in its inventory. The supplier may determine that it will offer a certain discount based on the quantity of the product in its inventory. Supplier sends a message to VASE 70(a) with the value of the benefit along with other information regarding redeeming the coupon.

VASE 70(a) sends an indication of the benefit to consumer 20 in any suitable way. An indication of the benefit can be any suitable notification of the benefit sent to consumer 20. Some examples of suitable notifications include a message sent to the mobile communication device 30, a message sent to the access device 52, a phone call, or other suitable notice sent to the consumer 20. The indication may include any suitable information regarding the benefit. For example, the indication may include the value of the benefit, the expiration date for collecting or redeeming the benefit, and other suitable information. VASE 70(a) can send message in any suitable way such as, for example, using a short messaging service (SMS) message, a multimedia messaging service (MMS) message, voicemail message, or an email message.

Payment processing network 70 comprises any suitable components for running VASE 70(a). For example, payment processing network 70 may include a server computer. The server computer can include a computer readable medium (CRM) comprising code having instructions for performing the functions of the server computer. For example, CRM may include code for receiving transaction information, code for interpreting product identifiers, code for determining or receiving a benefit associated with a product, code for determining the value of the benefit, code for communicating with suppliers of products, and code for sending an indication of the benefit to the consumer 20. The server computer of payment processing network 70 can also include a processor for performing the functions of the server computer, and for executing code on the computer readable medium. Payment processing network 70 can also include a database. Payment processing network 70 may use any suitable wired or wireless network, including the Internet.

Issuer 90 can be any suitable entity that may open and maintain an account associated with consumer 20. Some examples of issuers may be a bank, a business entity such as a retail store, or a governmental entity. In many cases, issuer 90 may also issue a payment device (e.g., a payment card) to consumer 20. In some embodiments, issuer 90 may also be the acquirer 60.

In an exemplary purchase transaction, consumer 20 selects items (e.g., products and/or services) to purchase from merchant 50. Merchant 50 enters the information about the items into access device 52. Access device 52 displays transaction information including a list of the items in the transaction with their product/service identifiers (e.g., SKU numbers), the prices of the items, the total amount of the transaction, a merchant ID or access device ID, along with other suitable transaction information.

Access device 52 then sends the transaction information with the product identifiers to payment processing network 70. In some cases, access device 52 can send the transaction information to acquirer 60 which forwards the information to payment processing network 70. In other cases, access device 52 can send the transaction information to mobile communication device 30 and consumer 20 can forward the information in a message to payment processing network 70 without passing through an acquirer 60. For example, consumer 20 uses their mobile communication device 30 to interact with access device 52 at merchant 50 to initiate the transaction. The mobile communication device 30 receives the transaction information from the access device 52, and relays the transaction information along with other information (e.g., a phone number) associated with the mobile communication device 30 to the payment processing network 70.

VASE 70(a) determines or receives one or more benefits associated with the identified products in the transaction and/or associated with consumer 20. For example, the product identifiers in the transaction information can be mapped to manufacturers 80 of the identified products. In other cases, consumer 20 can identify a benefit provider to merchant 50, merchant 50 can enter the benefit provider identification into access device 52, and access device 52 can send the benefit provider identification in the transaction information to payment processing network 70. For example, consumer 20 may indicate to merchant 50 that he is covered under a health insurance policy associated with healthcare network 82. Merchant 50 can enter into access device 52 that healthcare network 82 is a benefit provider associated with consumer 20.

Once benefit providers are determined, a message is sent to the benefit providers requesting benefit information. The message includes the product identifiers. In response, the benefit providers determine the benefit(s) associated with the identified products or VASE 70(a) determines the benefit(s) associated with the identified products on behalf of the benefit providers.

For example, VASE 70(a) can send a message to manufacturer 80 with product identifiers and a request for coupons associated with the identified products. Manufacturer 80 retrieves inventory information from its inventory database 80(c) such as the actual quantity of the identified products in inventory, the optimal quantity of the identified products in inventory, the expiration dates of the products in inventory, and/or the rate of the movement of the identified products in inventory. Manufacturer 80 can determine whether the identified products are in excess inventory, slow-moving, or about to expire based on the retrieved inventory information. If the identified products are in one of these categories, manufacturer 80 may decide to offer a coupon to move the products. A value of the coupon is determined and the coupon is sent to and is received by VASE 70(a).

VASE 70(a) then sends an indication of any benefits to consumer 20. For example, VASE 70(a) can send a message to mobile communication device 30 or access device 52. The message may include a coupon for products that the consumer 20 is contemplated purchasing. Consumer 20 can select one or more of the benefits to use in the transaction and then can complete the transaction with these benefits. The mobile communication device 30 or the access device 52 responds by sending a message to VASE 70(a) indicating the selected benefits and indicating that consumer 20 requested that the transaction be completed. In response, VASE 70(a) updates the transaction information to reflect the benefits selected by consumer 20.

VASE 70(a) sends the updated transaction information in an authorization request message to issuer 90. Issuer 90 processes the authorization request message and determines whether to authorize or decline the transaction. An authorization response message is sent to payment processing network 70 indicating that the transaction is authorized (or is declined). An authorization response message is sent to acquirer 60 which forwards the message to merchant 50. In other cases, VASE 70(a) authorizes the transaction on behalf of issuer 90.

At the end of the day, a normal clearing and settlement process can be conducted. A clearing process is a process of exchanging financial details between merchant 50 and issuer 90 to facilitate posting to a consumer's account and reconciliation of the consumer's settlement position. Clearing and settlement can occur simultaneously.

II. Exemplary Mobile Communication Device

FIG. 2 is a schematic drawing of an exemplary mobile communication device 30 (e.g., a mobile phone), in accordance with an embodiment of the disclosure. Exemplary mobile communication device 30 comprises a body 30(a) that may be in the form a plastic substrate, housing, or other structure.

Exemplary mobile communication device 30 also comprises a computer readable medium (CRM) 31 that may be present within body 30(a), or may be detachable from it. CRM 31 may be a memory that stores data and may be in any suitable form including a magnetic stripe, a memory chip, etc. The memory preferably stores information such as financial information, transit information (e.g., as in a subway or train pass), access information (e.g., as in access badges), etc. Financial information may include information such as bank account information, bank identification number (BIN), credit or debit card number information, account balance information, expiration date, consumer information such as name, date of birth, etc. Any of this information may be transmitted by mobile communication device 30.

CRM 31 comprises any suitable code for performing the functions of mobile communication device 30. In some embodiments, computer readable medium comprises: a) code for receiving information from access device 52; b) code for sending information to payment processing network 70 or issuer 90, c) code for receiving information from payment processing network 70 or issuer 90.

Exemplary mobile communication device 30 also includes a contactless element 33, which is typically implemented in the form of a semiconductor chip (or other data storage element) with an associated wireless transfer (e.g., data transmission) element, such as an antenna. Contactless element 33 is associated with (e.g., embedded within) mobile communication device 30 and data or control instructions transmitted via a cellular network may be applied to contactless element 33 by means of a contactless element interface. The contactless element interface functions to permit the exchange of data and/or control instructions between the mobile communication device circuitry (and hence the cellular network) and contactless element 33.

Contactless element 33 is capable of transferring and receiving data using a near field communications (“NFC”) capability (or near field communications medium) typically in accordance with a standardized protocol or data transfer mechanism (e.g., ISO 14443/NFC). Near field communications capability is a short-range communications capability, such as RFID, Bluetooth , infra-red, or other data transfer capability that can be used to exchange data between the mobile communication device 30 and an interrogation device. Thus, the mobile communication device 30 is capable of communicating and transferring data and/or control instructions via both cellular network and near field communications capability.

The mobile communication device 30 may also include a processor 34 (e.g., a microprocessor) for processing the functions of the mobile communication device 30 and a display 35 to allow a consumer to see phone numbers and other information and messages. The mobile communication device 30 may further include input elements 36 to allow a consumer to input information into the device, a speaker 37 to allow the consumer to hear voice communication, music, etc., and a microphone 38 to allow the consumer to transmit her voice through the mobile communication device 30. The mobile communication device 30 may also include an antenna 39 for wireless data transfer (e.g., data transmission).

Exemplary mobile communication device 30 also comprises a processor 34 (e.g., a microprocessor) for processing the functions of the mobile communication device 30 and a display 35 to display information such as messages and transaction information to viewers such as consumer 20. The mobile communication device 30 may further include input elements 36 to allow consumer 20 to input information into the mobile communication device 30, a speaker 37 to produce sound communications and a microphone 38 for receiving sound communications. The mobile communication device 30 may also include an antenna 39 for wireless data transfer (e.g., data transmission). Computer readable medium 31, contactless element 33, display 35, input elements 36, speaker 37, microphone 38, and antenna 39 are all operatively coupled to processor 34.

III. Exemplary Access Device

FIG. 3 is a block diagram of the basic components that may reside in an exemplary access device 52, in accordance with an embodiment of the disclosure. An exemplary access device 52 may comprise a processor 52(a). It may also comprise a computer readable medium 52(b), keypad 52(c), a mobile communication device reader 52(d), an output device 52(e), and a network interface 52(f), all operatively coupled to the processor 52(a). A housing may house one or more of these components. Exemplary mobile communication device readers can include RF (radio frequency) antennas, magnetic stripe readers, etc. that interact with the mobile communication device 30. Suitable output devices may include one or more display displays, audio output devices e.g., speakers and printers. Exemplary computer readable media may include one or more memory chips, disk drives, etc.

IV. Exemplary Methods

FIG. 4 is a flowchart illustrating a method for using a Value-Added Service Engine (VASE) 70(a) to conduct a transaction, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention. The VASE 70(a) of payment processing network 70 receives transaction information comprising product identifiers (or service identifiers) associated with products (or services) in a transaction conducted between consumer 20 and merchant 50 (step 100).

In some embodiments, the transaction information is received in a communication message originating at access device 52. The access device 52 then forwards the message to the acquirer 60, which then forwards it to the payment processing network 70 and consequently the VASE 70(a). As noted above, the transaction information may include a list of the items in the transaction with their product/service identifiers (e.g., SKU numbers), the prices of the items, the total amount of the transaction, and a merchant ID and/or access device ID. In other embodiments, the transaction information is sent from the access device 52, to the mobile communication device 30 operated by consumer 20, and then to the payment processing network 70 over a wireless communication channel, without passing through the acquirer 60.

VASE 70(a) can determine any suitable value added benefits such as coupons, healthcare benefits, and/or government benefits. These benefits are associated with the products/services identified in the transaction and/or associated with the consumer 20.

To determine coupons that may apply to the transaction, VASE 70(a) sends a message requesting offers to suppliers (e.g., manufacturer 80 or merchant 50) of the products identified in the transaction by product identifiers (step 120). To identify a manufacturer 80 supplying one or more products in the transaction, VASE 70(a) can correlate the product identifiers to the manufacturer 80 using correlation data. VASE 70(a) identifies the merchant 50 associated with the transaction based on the merchant id or access id in the transaction information. A message is sent to the suppliers requesting coupons for the products in the transaction.

In response, the suppliers retrieve inventory data from their inventory database(s) such as the actual quantity of the identified products currently in inventory (step 130). Other inventory information may also be retrieved such as the optimal quantity of the identified products in inventory, the expiration dates of the identified products, and the rate of the movement of the identified products.

Suppliers can optimize inventories by providing coupons to consumers that encourage sales and may move products that are in excess, slow-moving, or about to expire. Coupons may offer a discount on the product identified in the transaction or may offer a discount on other products. For example, if consumer 20 is purchasing a single product X, a supplier may offer a coupon for 50% off the purchase of a second product X or a different product Y.

Suppliers determine the values of the coupon offers based on the quantity of a product in inventory (step 140). If products are in excess inventory, the value of the coupon offer may be relative to the number or products in excess inventory. For example, a high value coupon may be offered (e.g., 40% discount) when there are 100 widgets in excess inventory and a low value coupon may be offered (e.g., 5% discount) when there are 10 widgets in excess inventory. As another example, if 100 widgets are about to expire, a bulk discount for 20 widgets at 50% discount may be offered to consumer 20. As another example, if products are in lower than optimal quantity in the inventory, no coupon may be offered.

VASE 70(a) receives the coupon offers with values from the suppliers (e.g., merchant 50 and manufacturer 80) and may optionally optimize the offers (step 150). The offers are optimized in any suitable way. In some cases, the offers may be optimized to minimize the transaction amount. In other cases, the offers may be optimized to minimize expenditures in maintaining inventory. For example, VASE 70(a) may determine the coupons that provide the highest value offers for products that are costly to maintain in inventory.

To determine healthcare benefits that apply to the transaction, VASE 70(a) first determines the healthcare network 82 associated with consumer 20 (step 200). In some cases, VASE 70(a) determines that healthcare network 82 is associated with consumer 20 by an indication from consumer 20. For example, consumer 20 can show merchant 50 a health insurance card indicating that consumer 20 is covered under a health insurance policy associated with healthcare network 82. In response, merchant 50 can enter into access device 52 an indication that healthcare network 82 is a benefit provider associated with consumer 20 and access device 52 can send the indication to VASE 70(a).

VASE 70(a) can also receive healthcare benefit information from the healthcare network 82 associated with consumer 20 (step 202). Using the healthcare benefit information, VASE 70(a) determines healthcare benefits that apply to products/services in the transaction (step 210). For example, the healthcare benefit information can include data (e.g., a table) that maps healthcare benefits to product /service identifiers. VASE 70(a) can determines healthcare benefits that apply by searching for the product/service identifiers in the data.

To determine government benefits that apply to the transaction, VASE 70(a) determines whether the consumer 20 is eligible under a government program, whether the merchant 50 is authorized to accept the government benefits under the government program, and/or whether there are eligible products/services in the transaction. In some cases, consumer 20 identifies himself to merchant 50 as being eligible under a government program (e.g., a food stamp program) by providing a payment token (e.g., an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card) that identifies the consumer 20 as being eligible.

VASE 70(a) receives government benefits information from the government organization 84 associated with consumer 20 (step 220). Using the government benefits information, VASE 70(a) can determine whether merchant 50 is authorized to accept government benefits under the government program. For example, VASE 70(a) can identify merchant 50 using a merchant id or access id on a list of authorized merchants in the government benefits information. VASE 70(a) also determines whether one or more of the products/services in the transaction are eligible for government benefits under the government program (step 230). For example, VASE 70(a) can identify the product identifiers (or service identifiers) on a list of eligible products (or services) in the government benefits information.

Once benefits are determined, the benefits information and other transaction information is sent to consumer 20 (step 240). For example, VASE 70(a) can send the amount of the transaction before benefits, the values of the benefits, the items in the transaction, the prices of the items in the transaction, the terms of the benefits including the conditions of accepting the benefits, the associated benefits providers, and other suitable information associated with the benefits and items in the transaction. The information can be sent to mobile communication device 30 and/or to access device 52.

Consumer 20 is given the option of selecting one or more of the benefits to apply to the transaction. A message indicating the selected benefits is then sent to VASE 70(a) (step 250). In some cases, consumer 20 selects the benefits and sends the request with the selections using their mobile communication device 30. The mobile communication device 30 can send the message with the selected benefits (e.g., coupons) to VASE 70(a) over a wireless communication channel, without passing through the acquirer 60. In other embodiments, consumer 20 makes selections of appropriate benefits using access device 52. The access device 52 then forwards the message with the selected benefits to VASE 70(a). In other embodiments, the benefits are automatically applied to the transaction.

Some of the transaction information such as the total amount is updated to reflect the benefits selected by consumer 20. VASE 70(a) also determines the payment information (e.g., a credit card number) associated with consumer 20. In some cases, consumer 20 sends the payment information in a message sent from mobile communication device 30 to the payment processing network 70 and consequently VASE 70(a), without passing through the acquirer 60. In other cases, consumer 20 may provide payment information to access device 52, which generates a message with the payment information. This message is then forwarded to VASE 70(a) via the acquirer 60. In other cases, VASE 70(a) can retrieve the payment information from issuer 90.

VASE 70(a) sends an authorization request message to issuer 90 (step 260). In response, issuer 90 authorizes (or declines) the transaction and sends an authorization response message back to VASE 70(a). The authorization request message may be declined if there are insufficient funds or credit in the consumer's account. In other cases, VASE 70(a) authorizes (or declines) the transaction on behalf of issuer 90. The authorization response message indicating that the transaction is authorized (or declined) is sent to merchant 50 through acquirer 60 (step 270) and the method ends (step 280).

In one embodiment, consumer 20 has a flexible spending account (FSA) associated with healthcare network 82. Consumer 20 can inform merchant 50 of his FSA and merchant 50 can enter information identifying the FSA into the access device 52. Alternatively, consumer 20 sends the information identifying the FSA directly to VASE 70(a) his mobile communication device 30. VASE 70(a) requests and receives a list of products or services that are covered under the FSA and a current balance in the FSA account. VASE 70(a) can determine whether the products/services in the transaction are eligible under the FSA by checking whether the products/services identifiers are on the list of covered products/services. VASE 70(a) also determines whether the balance on the FSA account is sufficient to cover the cost of the products or services. If the products/services are covered under the FSA, the benefits and other transaction information is provided to consumer 20. Consumer 20 can choose to use their FSA for the products/services and can also request that the transaction be processed by VASE 70(a). VASE 70(a) can send an authorization request message to the healthcare network 82 with the chosen product/services and other transaction information. If the healthcare network 82 authorizes the transaction, VASE 70(a) can clear and settle the transaction by exchanging financial details between merchant 50 and healthcare network 82 to facilitate posting to the FSA account.

In one embodiment, consumer 20 can send a request for benefit information associated with certain products/services directly to VASE 70(a) before initiating the transaction. For example, consumer 20 may be considering whether to purchase a product/service at a merchant 50 and would like to know whether there are any benefits that may be associated with the product/service before consumer 20 initiates the transaction. Consumer 20 may enter a product/service identifier and request benefits using their mobile communication device 30. A request message with the product/service identifier is sent to VASE 70(a) via a telephone company. VASE 70(a) sends requests to benefit providers for benefits. A message is sent to mobile communication device 30 indicating any benefits that may apply. Consumer 20 can then decide whether or not to initiate the transaction based on the benefits.

Either consumer 20 or merchant 50 can initiate sending the transaction information to VASE 70(a). Consumer 20 can use their mobile communication device 30 to send a message to VASE 70(a) or consumer 20 can prompt the access device 52 at merchant 50 to send the information. Merchant 50 can prompt its access device 52 to initiate sending the transaction information to VASE 70(a). Also, mobile communication device 30 and access device 52 can initiate sending the transaction information. For example, access device 52 can send the transaction information to VASE 70(a) as merchant 50 enters product identifiers.

V. Exemplary Access Device and Communication Device Displays

FIGS. 5-7 are illustrations depicting exemplary displays on access devices and mobile communication devices, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

The display 300 shown in FIG. 5 can be on mobile communication device 30 and/or on access device 52. The transaction information shown on display 300 is associated with four items selected for purchase by consumer 20. The transaction information may be displayed as a result of merchant 50 entering information identifying the four items into access device 52.

Display 300 includes a merchant ID at the top of the display 300. In other embodiments, an access device ID can be shown. The merchant ID or access device ID can be used to identify the merchant 50.

Display 300 also includes a list of the four items selected for purchase by consumer 20, the price of each item, and a SKU number associated with each item. The items in the list can be products or services. Each SKU number can be used to identify the product or service. Display 300 also includes a total amount of the transaction of $112.90 before benefits or taxes are applied.

The consumer 20 or merchant 50 initiates sending the transaction information shown on display 300 to VASE 70(a). In response to receiving the transaction information, VASE 70(a) determines or receives coupons and available FSA benefits associated with the four items. For example, coupons can be received from manufacturers and merchant 50. As another example, FSA benefits may be retrieved from healthcare network 82. VASE 70(a) sends the benefit information to mobile communication device 30 and/or an access device 52 as illustrated on display 400 in FIG. 6.

The display 400 lists the benefits received from VASE 70(a) for the four items that consumer 20 selected for purchase. The benefits include coupons available and healthcare benefits associated with consumer's FSA account. The top portion of display 400 shows the coupons available and the bottom portion of shows available FSA benefits. As shown, four coupons (Coupons 1-4) are available. Coupons 1-3 are associated with Item 1 and coupon 4 is associated with the Item 2. There are no coupons available for Item 3 or 4. Coupon 1 is provided by Manufacturer 1, Coupon 2 is provided by Manufacturer 2, Coupon 3 is provided by merchant 50, and Coupon 3 is provided by Manufacturer 3.

Display 400 also includes the quantity of the items that must be purchased in order to receive each coupon. For example, in order to use Coupon 1, consumer 20 must purchase 10 units of Item 1. In order to use Coupon 2, consumer 20 must purchase 5 units of item 1.

Consumer 20 can also view the coupon information such as the terms and conditions in accepting the discount offered by the coupon. To see the coupon information, consumer 20 can select the icon under the “View” category adjacent to the coupon. If consumer 20 selects the icon, a pop up screen or other display can show the coupon information. Consumer 20 can review the coupon information before selecting to apply the coupon to the transaction.

As noted above, display 400 also shows the FSA benefits available to consumer 20 in the transaction. As shown, there is a $1000 balance left in consumer's FSA account and Items 3 and 4 are eligible for purchase using funds from the FSA account.

After reviewing the benefits, consumer 20 can select the coupons to redeem and eligible Items to purchase using FSA funds by selecting the appropriate box under the “Apply” columns. Consumer 20 has checked the box to apply Coupon 1 for a discount on Item 1 and checked the box to apply FSA funds to purchase Item 4. At the top of display 400, consumer 20 is prompted to hit “enter” after completing their selection of benefits.

Once consumer 20 selects benefits to apply to the transaction, the transaction information is updated to reflect the benefits. The updated information can be displayed on mobile communication device 30 and/or access device 52. An exemplary display 500 of the updated transaction information is shown in FIG. 7. Display 500 includes a list of the items selected for purchase, the quantity of the each item, the discounted price/unit, the total prices for each item, the product identifiers for each item, and the subtotal of the prices for the items. Display 500 also includes the FSA funds applied to Item 4, the taxes and other fees that may apply to the transaction, and the total amount of the transaction after the selected benefits have been applied. As shown, the FSA funds are applied to the pre-tax price of Item 4.

Display 400 also includes a request for a PIN number to complete the transaction. VASE 70(a) can uses the PIN to authenticate consumer 20. Once consumer 20 enters their PIN, a request to conduct the transaction is sent to VASE 70(a) with the updated transaction information and selected benefits to authorize (or decline) the transaction.

VI. Computer Apparatuses

FIG. 8 shows a block diagram of subsystems that may be present in computer apparatuses that are used in system 10, according to embodiments of the disclosure.

The various participants and elements in the previously described Figures may operate using one or more computer apparatuses to facilitate the functions described herein. Any of the elements in the Figures may use any suitable number of subsystems to facilitate the functions described herein. Examples of such subsystems or components are shown in a FIG. 8.

The subsystems shown in FIG. 8 are interconnected via a system bus 575. Additional subsystems such as a printer 584, keyboard 578, fixed disk 579 (or other memory comprising computer readable media), monitor 576, which is coupled to display adapter 582, and others are shown. Peripherals and input/output (I/O) devices, which couple to I/O controller 571, can be connected to the computer system by any number of means known in the art, such as serial port 577. For example, serial port 577 or external interface 581 can be used to connect the computer apparatus to a wide area network such as the Internet, a mouse input device, or a scanner. The interconnection via system bus allows the central processor 573 to communicate with each subsystem and to control the execution of instructions from system memory 582 or the fixed disk 579, as well as the exchange of information between subsystems. The system memory 582 and/or the fixed disk 579 may embody a computer readable medium. Any of these elements may be present in the previously described features. For example, the previously described “server computer” may have one or more of these components shown in FIG. 8.

A “computer readable medium” according to an embodiment of the disclosure may comprise code for performing any of the functions described above. The “server computer” may also have a processor coupled to the computer readable medium, where the processor executes instructions embodied by computer code on the computer readable medium.

It should be understood that the present invention as described above can be implemented in the form of control logic using computer software in a modular or integrated manner. Based on the disclosure and teachings provided herein, a person of ordinary skill in the art will know and appreciate other ways and/or methods to implement the present invention using hardware and a combination of hardware and software.

Any of the software components or functions described in this disclosure, may be implemented as software code to be executed by a processor using any suitable computer language such as, for example, Java, C++ or Perl using, for example, conventional or object-oriented techniques. The software code may be stored as a series of instructions, or commands on a computer readable medium, such as a random access memory (RAM), a read only memory (ROM), a magnetic medium such as a hard-drive or a floppy disk, or an optical medium such as a CD-ROM. Any such computer readable medium may reside on or within a single computational apparatus, and may be present on or within different computational apparatuses within a system or network.

A recitation of “a”, “an” or “the” is intended to mean “one or more” unless specifically indicated to the contrary.

The above description is illustrative and is not restrictive. Many variations of the disclosure will become apparent to those skilled in the art upon review of the disclosure. The scope of the disclosure should, therefore, be determined not with reference to the above description, but instead should be determined with reference to the pending claims along with their full scope or equivalents.

Modifications, additions, or omissions may be made to the illustrated embodiments in FIGS. 1-8 without departing from the scope of the disclosure. The features of the illustrated embodiments may be integrated with one or more features of any other embodiment or separated without departing from the scope of the disclosure. For example, although separate functional blocks in FIG. 1 are shown for issuer 90, payment processing network 70, and acquirer 60, some entities perform all of these functions and may be included in embodiments of the disclosure. As another example, the methods described in the disclosure can include more, fewer, or other steps. Also, the steps may be performed in any suitable order. Moreover, the operations of components in the illustrated embodiments may be performed by more, fewer, or other components. Additionally, operations of components in the illustrated embodiments may be performed using any suitable logic comprising software, hardware, other logic, or any suitable combination of the preceding.

All patents, patent applications, publications, and descriptions mentioned above are herein incorporated by reference in their entirety for all purposes. None is admitted to be prior art.