Stampmaster Inc, a Westlake, California-based start-up, has won approval from the US Postal Service to begin beta testing of its internet-based postal delivery service. Palo-Alto-based E-Stamp Inc won similar approval back in March. Like E-Stamp, two-year old Stampmaster is developing a so-called Information Based Indicia system, containing digitized mail processing information and security-related data. PC users using certified products will be able to buy postage over the internet and print IBI postage from the computer in the form of a bar code, using standard ink jet and laser jet printers. While E-Stamp has the backing and investment money of industry heavyweights Compaq Computer Corp and Microsoft Corp, its proposed system requires additional hardware plugged into the printer port of each PC. Stampmaster’s system needs no special hardware, and the initial download of software from the company’s web site is free. That software is then used to connect up to Stampmaster’s secure servers. Stampmaster plans to make its software available for use within popular world processing, contact management, accounting and corporate applications once the beta test program, taking place in Washington DC, and later in San Francisco, California and Tampa, Florida, has been completed. Both companies face a battle with traditional postage meter company Pitney Bowes, which claims to hold a set of patents applying to cryptography and key management that will affect the two firms. Pitney Bowes is said to be readying its own IBI system.