PDF Image Files for Online Bill Payment
Set to replace faxes
Full Disclosure: I'm on the Board of Advisors for PayMyBills.com. I provided consulting and advice on imaging, data capture and Web presentation.

When faced with the responsibility to give people a better than average Web document, PDF makes a lot of sense.

PayMyBills.com offers EBPP -- Electronic Bill Presentation and Payment -- to the consumer market, especially that growing wing of the population that is operating online, at Internet speed. The breakout service that PayMyBills offers is that they move ALL your bills to the Web, all the paper bills and mail included.

The fine distinction with the current bill paying services of the global banks and what PMB has to offer, is that the big guys currently accept less than 100 digital partners. Banks are going to grab their share of electronic transactions, that's a given. PayMyBills is addressing the paperless world. You send all your bills to them, they crank them into your customized presentation for your payment decisions. If you want to see your bills, you can click and grab the utterly reliable PDF Image version. DEMO available.

During the theory and development stage, it was duly noted that the competition was using more "familiar" solutions for image presentation over the Web, mostly GIF and some grayscale JPEG. The limitation of these totally Web solutions is that they ar almost impossible to print reliably, across all platforms.

If you have ever tried printing a long document via GIF/JPEG images, you understand why it is a good idea to have an easily printable document format. The freely available Acrobat Reader lets you print PDF Image with excellent fidelity, usually at the rated speed of your printer.

Warning - Rant Ahead!

Dear Reader, You have to permit me to go off here:

Right now, the Acrobat Reader outstrips every other browser, e-book and comparable techniques for consuming rich online documents.

In the case of Document Imaging, where legal facsimiles are required, PDF Images are the most easily shared format, which can be printed or faxed in the free Reader. More and more, consumers will communicate with their billers over email. As email replaces fax, PDF Images will take the place of fax, because exact page images will be transmitted. PDF Images can be originated and generated via all standard applications via PDFWriter, just like fax copies "printed" through a fax board or server.

I'll keep it brief! PDF documents offer open compliance with most popular Digital Signature vendors and directions. Web Buy has proven the viability of unique, one-off digital documents, opening the door to secure copying over the Internet.

So, going back to the original issue of this rant: which IMAGE Format to offer over the Web - if you are a service provider.

Well, you gotta serve the widest market of customers. And, it can't take forever to download an image, or heaven forbid, a whole series of page images! And, once those images get there, you usually have to print them out to send somebody a copy, so that should be totally easy.

First thing you do is log on over a regular dial-up modem and see how the whole process feels. You log on and try to view and print various page images - documents - and see how it works for you. Some sites have separate versions of View and Print copies of their pages. That means a double-download sometimes. Compare conventional GIF/JPEG delivery to PDF delivery in Acrobat Reader. There is no comparison to byteserved PDF for most popular consumer features in Viewing, Printing and Navigating digital documents.

Last thing: People do complain about the download time of PDF. Of course, people complain about the download time of everything. As an alternative, for people who don't want to take the time to download Acrobat Reader and learn to use it, the Adobe Document Server can crank out PDF content as JPEG for those who prefer the pure browser experience. This is a powerful accommodation for everybody, literally offering the best of both worlds.

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