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SIA SHOW: HillCast Tackles Streaming-Wireless Trading

Institutional traders who fear leaving their office in these volatile markets can now cut the desktop tethers, thanks to a new wireless-streaming product that will let them trade from their handheld device.

Institutional traders who fear leaving their office in these volatile markets can now cut the desktop tethers, thanks to a new wireless-streaming product that will let them trade from their handheld device.

HillCast Technologies, Inc. has unveiled MidCast BLOCK, what Andres Carvallo, chief executive officer and president of the Austin, Texas-based firm, says is the "world's first streaming, real-time institutional-trading application for block traders."

The solution, he says, is geared to traders at large firms like Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch, "guys trying to sell each other a million shares."

Carvallo says that by providing wireless-trading connectivity to institutional traders, financial institutions are "able to service (customers) more aggressively. It adds incredible value ... in terms of flexibility."

He adds that the MidCast BLOCK system's straight-through-processing environment, which provides end-to-end security, "eliminates virtually all errors because there's no paper involved."

So are institutional traders ready for the mobile world? "I think so, they certainly want it," he says. Traders can "do everything they do today on a regular trade," including buy and sell orders, market and limit orders, cancels, and they can generate a range of reports, such as validation orders, order acknowledgments and fill reports. They can also get a range of market information.

Carvallo says MidCast BLOCK requires smart-phone technology (Java-enabled devices that are Internet friendly) and the system can run on devices such as the Motorola i95, i90, i85, i80 and i50, the Samsung i300, the new RIM Blackberry 5810 and the Handspring Treo 270 and 180.

"It runs well on CDMA and GPRS networks," which are fully Internet compatible, says Carvallo, whose firm is exhibiting at the Javelin Technologies Inc. booth (booth 3616), one of its product partners in developing the system. The trading information routes through Javelin's Appia FIX engine, so in order to take advantage of MidCast BLOCK, financial institutions must have a licensing agreement with Javelin. HillCast has two high-performance feeds, from HyperFeed and the Island ECN.

HillCast is testing the system with some Wall Street firms and Carvallo says it's "just as reliable as your desktop." He says that HillCast, which was founded in 2000, has tested MidCast BLOCK against desktop solutions running high-speed Internet access and, "The biggest difference we noticed was a one-second delay."

He notes that "not everybody does block trading" and block traders are a "finite" market; however, he says, forecasters predict that within a few years, $300 to $500 million worth of shares will be traded wirelessly.

Price for MidCast BLOCK is still being worked out, but Carvallo, who previously worked for Microsoft and Philips before launching and selling some telecommunications companies, says it will be based on a blend of share volume and users. HillCast was also busy at the show announcing new devices that work with its MidCast Financial Suite, which it launched earlier this spring. MidCast is the company's first foray into real-time streaming of financial information to handheld devices and is geared to the consumer market. For between $15-$30, depending on the device, users can download software that allows them to get unlimited stock quotes and charts streamed to their phones or PDAs and "watch the market go up and down." The information includes detailed quotes and real-time or day charts. Investors can also track an unlimited number of stocks that trade on the Nasdaq or NYSE.

The company also has MidCast PRO, which extends the functionality and provides additional data sources allowing users to view level II data, monitor their personal portfolio and execute trades directly from their device.Those services have now been extended to include the J2ME-friendly RIM device, the Handspring Treo 270 and 180 and the Samsung i300.

Carvallo says HillCast will now be out there "aggressively selling" its new services and looking to license it to online brokers and full-service firms. In the future, it will be extending its service to additional devices, such as the Kyocera smart phone, Nokia devices and Pocket PCs. The firm also has plans to launch MidCast MANAGER, a wireless- trading service for portfolio managers. He thinks the time for wireless has arrived. "It's all about having real-time information streamed non-stop and acting on it."

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