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 ePower Systems – Technology

The premise behind ePower’s technology is to provide the benefits of the CustomerDirect service without requiring the client to modify their existing system. The service drops directly into their existing architecture, data formats, and workflow for straightforward systems integration.

System Components of CustomerDirect

Information Parser
The information parser component interfaces with the biller’s existing billing system. In the traditional billing model, these systems provide output to a printer, which generates a paper representation of the billing information. The CustomerDirect workflow takes the billing information, in its current format, and filters the data to extract the key information from the data stream. The key point is that the billing information for electronic bill presentment is taken directly from the biller’s existing format, the biller does not need to make any upgrades or changes.

The legacy billing systems of utilities can use a wide variety of data formats, including fixed length, data tagged, RDB, AFP, Xerox Line Mode or other file formats. Generally, data sent to the bill printer includes both billing i . information (customer name, customer number, service usage, monthly charges, etc.) and formatting information (lines, spacing, tabs, graphics, logos, etc.). The parser extracts the relevant billing information from the formatting.

The core technology is custom C++ middleware, developed with Visual Studio, which translates the biller’s data file, byte for byte, into the data fields required for the database. The information server works with the biller’s legacy system formats, and additionally includes tools for rapid adaptation to obscure formats that are unique to a specific biller. In the majority of cases, a new client’s format will be the same as an existing format, so that their data can be immediately integrated with ePower.

Information Server
The ePower information server manages all functionality of the system, including processing both incoming and outgoing information from both billers and biller customers. The system runs on a Windows NT Server workstation, linked to SQL Server via ODBC connectivity. The web-enabled applications are implemented in Active Server Pages (ASP).

This server includes:

  1. A corporate presence at
    • Provides ePower company and service information via the internet.
  2. Consumer access through
    • Supports confidential access to facilitate clients automatically uploading billing information and promotional content, which they want incorporated in the electronic bill.
    • Facilitates end users’ access to their account via the internet. They can view previous bills, make payments, and update their address information.
  3. Background Processes – The background server applications include:
    • EBPP Generator – automatically generates, formats, and sends ePower EBPP via email. The email is in HTML format, to facilitate interactive bill presentment. Interactive components and dynamic features of the bill viewing are implemented in VBScript and JavaScript.
    • Transaction Processor – described below.

Transaction Processor
Transaction generation occurs via three methods:

  • When the customer responds to the ePower bill presentment, authorizing payment.
  • When the customer visits (payment web site) to authorize payment.
  • If the customer has authorized automatic payments, a transaction is generated when the billing information is received from the biller.

In these cases, the ePower system generates an electronic transaction to transfer funds to the biller, This transaction is in the form of an ACH (Automated Clearinghouse) electronic payment. The design allows for the incorporation of credit card back ends, and OFX (Open Financial Exchange) compatibility. OFX is a universal standard for the electronic exchange of financial data and is compatible with the financial software packages offered by CheckFree, Intuit, and Microsoft. OFX supports the transfer of financial data including consumer and business to business payments and bill presentment.

The completed transactions are consolidated into a daily reconciliation report for the client. Currently, the reconciliation report is designed to be compatible with the Century Bank standard, which is both human and machine-readable.

Account Data base
The account database stores all customer data in a SQL Server database. This includes all customer information, including location, status, current and prior usage and billing information, and any other information provider by the biller. In the case where the customer uses the services of more than one ePower client company, the information is linked. Other information stored includes dates of prior payments, responses to marketing/informational data included with electronic bills, and customer driven inquiries about billing/service information. SQL server includes robust features to insure data integrity and transaction reconciliation and security.

The ePower design uses SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption for security. This is the standard security measure used for the most secure data transfers over the web, based on public key/private key RSA encryption technology. Note that the customer’s bank account number/credit card number is NOT transmitted over the Internet. When the customer authorizes payment by responding to the EBPP email, a transaction is generated, but no financial information is transmitted. The bank account information resides only in the secure database, and the transaction is an ACH transmission over a dedicated private line. Additionally, the deployed system will have a firewall between the web access and the core database. To insure state of the art security, ePower will devote significant resources to having security expertise on staff, and using the services of web security consultants.

In addition, CustomerDirect will provide immediate confirmation of transactions to the customer. To prevent fraudulent transfers, daily reconciliation of all accounts will be conducted prior to the close of business each day.

Information Analysis Tools
These components operate on the ePower database to provide clients with detailed reports on their online customers, so that the data can be aggregated and analyzed to provide valuable marketing and payment analysis information to ePower clients that they could not get from their current billing methods.

These reports can be customized to client needs, and include:

  • Average days of accounts receivables
  • Customer service usage
  • Aggregate usage statistics based on demographics
  • Total responses to online promotions
  • Time series analysis of all these factors
  • Seasonal adjustment and comparisons

These reports can be delivered each month to the client, via hardcopy, and in a file which can be read directly into their database software.

ePower Systems
Table of Contents Appendices
1. Executive Summary
2. The Industry
3. Company Description
4. ePower’s Services
5. Market Research
6. Marketing Strategies
7. Management
8. Financial Plan
Monthly Financials
Quarterly Financials
Annual Financials
All information herein is confidential and belongs to ePower Systems

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