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Archive for July, 2012

Mobilizing Relief Aid

July 31, 2012 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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Dutch Bangla Bank Limited (DBBL) recently kicked off a pilot program in cooperation with the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) in Bangladesh, where over 200 beneficiaries will receive food aid via DBBL mobile banking.

That is, Bangladeshis will receive aid money in a mobile account on their mobile devices, and be able to use it to buy food from local merchants. Similar to other WFP mobile-based assistance programs (such as those in Niger and Zambia), this method of distribution provides assistance to people in need while also adding funds to the local economy.

Is mobile the new medium for distributing disaster aid?

After Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, the country’s mobile phone network was the first network to come back online. Many aid organizations used mobile to find survivors, collect donations (The American Red Cross collected $7 million in 24 hours by allowing people to donate $10 with a text message.), and share information about food supplies, shelter, medical facilities, keeping sanitary and other important topics.

A similar story arose out of Japan last year, following the earthquake and tsunami. Mobile donations poured in from around the world. People living in Japan checked in with family and friends through social media on their mobiles, and were able to receive public service announcements and other important information.

As mobile devices and mobile money become more widespread, it’s easy to imagine a future where aid agencies choose the mobile channel for their organization, collection and distribution efforts first, for its lower costs (no transportation or physical distribution points required), better privacy, higher security, and most important—its immediacy.

Mobile OS Vendors Continue to Invest in Mobile Payments

July 11, 2012 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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In the last several weeks, two leading mobile operating system (OS) vendors moved into the mobile payments space. Apple announced its new mobile wallet Passbook that will debut with iOS 6 this fall. Microsoft quickly followed with its announcement of the new Microsoft Wallet mobile payment app, also due out this fall as a part of Windows 8…and Google continues to revamp Google Wallet

It’s clear that Apple and Microsoft are making a big move into new territory. Neither company is waiting for an ecosystem to form before they jump in. They’re not waiting for co-ops like the Isis partnership, banks or brands. They want to make sure that they’ll become a key component of the value chain.

While on the surface it appears the three major mobile platforms now have a mobile wallet capability, as always the devil is in the details. Each vendor has taken very different approaches to create a mobile wallet service within their OS, particularly in how they authenticate payments.

Google’s wallet is device-centric, with a secure element embedded within the phone itself being used to validate payments. So if you want to access the service, you can only do so from a handful of devices. Microsoft has adopted the SIM-centric model that has been promoted by the GSMA.

With Google’s model, the Operator can be excluded from the value chain, but with Microsoft’s the operator is required for the provisioning of the SIM.

Apple, as they often do, has taken a very different approach. Apple’s Passbook enables third parties to push barcode- and QR code-based loyalty cards, store cards and boarding passes in to a single location on the iPhone. So the British Airways boarding pass for your flight tomorrow, or your existing Starbucks card barcode, could be stored in you Passbook.

Apple’s Passbook is, in many ways, more remarkable for what it doesn’t do. Whilst British Airways could update that boarding pass if the gate changes, you can also use the pass to confirm the time of the flight. And while your balance on the Starbucks pass can update, you can’t top up your account from within Passbook. To do either, you would need to use the existing iPhone app and not Passbook

Depending on your definition, you could argue Apple’s solution is not really a mobile wallet, as it purely stores passes, and has no payment capability of its own. Apple seems to agree, as the product name is Passbook and not (say) iWallet.

However, while Passbook is limited, it is an incredibly simple version of any existing service that uses barcodes or QR codes to push passes in to Apple’s Passbook. And there is no cost for third parties to do so.

This is the start of the bid from the mobile OS vendors to say that they’re going to control the wallets. Operators are making a clear play for a slice of the pie, but at present only the Microsoft wallet has a clear role for operators in the value chain. With the approach that Google and Apple have taken, the only thing mobile payments need from operators is really the connectivity. Again, it’s all coming down who is going to own that relationship with the customer.

Take Apple. When it launches Passbook, it will already have worldwide distribution. And though the current version has no payment capability, Apple has the credit card details of 400 million customers already banked in the iTunes Store, to which it could easily link to this. I can’t imagine that Apple won’t leverage that advantage in some way down the road.

Watch this space over the coming months, as this looks like it is just about to explode…