card.io is releasing a software-based payment app today for Android and iOS. In and of itself, that is only mildly interesting. There are dozens of startups and enterprises looking to evolve the mobile payments space. card.io is thinking bigger. It is giving mobile developers a new software developer kit to institute its payments platform into any application.
The card.io mobile payments SDK is an evolution for the company. The company already had a "Scanning SDK" that it released in June 2011 (iOS) and September (Android) that would allow people to scan a credit card but not actually process the payment. The new SDK will process the payment as well, taking the friction out of the transaction by eliminating the steps between scan and processing.
There are no set up or monthly charges. card.io will take a 3.5% plus $0.30 per transaction cut and payouts go to either PayPal or a bank account.
card.io is not alone in creating a camera-based software payments system for smartphones. Jumio is also working on creating the ability to take pictures of credit cards and process payments through its app and Netswipe platform. Jumio also has an SDK to institute its payment technology and has more funding with its recent $6.5 million round led by Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin. Jumio is well ahead of card.io and working on basically the same product. card.io has raised $1 million from a variety of investors.
There is a new wrinkle in the mobile payments space. Developers are trying to lower the bar for what it takes to institute payment technologies within apps. Near field communications (NFC) requires a special chipset baked right into the smartphone hardware. Dongles are external hardware that can be attached at need. Yet, what Jumio, card.io and to a certain extent companies like LevelUp (which uses QR codes) are attempting to eliminate those special hardware needs.
What it will come down to between card.io and Jumio is really what platform works better. Here is a challenge for the developers that and community of ReadWriteMobile: build and app with card.io and another with Jumio. Put each through the paces and let us know what is better.