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Visa has become a minority partner in Beyond Analysis in order to better exploit the 11 billion transaction records it has knocking around on its servers.

Visa handles a quarter of the money we spend in the UK, and has detailed records of what we spend it on, which it reckons is ripe for better exploitation. The company isn't planning to start profiling individuals, not yet at least, but it will be offering analytical services to merchants who want to know where else their customers are spending money.

Those services will start off as documented reports, but Visa wants to move towards a real-time service which would allow a shop to see where else its customers spent money today, or (if the day hasn't been a good one) where its customers have gone.

Beyond Analysis has been dipping into Visa's data over the last few years, but the investment marks Visa taking much greater interest in how to better use that data. Neither company is admitting how much money Visa has invested in the London-based, 65-person Beyond Analysis, or how much equity it got for the cash, saying only that Visa now owns a "significant minority stake".

Visa tells us that £1 in every £4 spent in the UK is transacted using a Visa-branded card – credit, debit or prepaid – but the company expects that to increase markedly when PayWave (Visa's proximity-payment scheme) gets going. PayWave will be pushed very heavily during the London Olympics as Visa is a sponsor (MasterCard's PayPass won't be allowed in the gate) so that should provide a whole lot more data for the companies to analyse.

Visa isn't alone in seeing the value of transaction records, or having the ability to use that data to accurately target special offers and/or tokens. Google's Wallet is intended to generate revenue in the same way, while American mobile operators have teamed up to create Isis on the same premise, while the UK's operators (except Three) are still trying to come up with a name for their joint offering.

Mobile operators know where you live, and where you are, potentially increasing the value of their data. Google often knows where you are, but also knows what you have searched for (and, quite possibly, the contents of your email account), and so can build up quite an accurate picture. But once PayWave becomes a default replacement for cash, Visa will have details of everything you buy, and reckons that that will make it a player.

Not that Visa is trying to profile people; right now it's just gathering data for retailers and banks with the intention of making paying for things "faster, easier and more rewarding", which is strange. We always thought that when you pay for stuff the reward comes from then owning the stuff, but we're a bit backward like that. ®

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