Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Follow the money

All of a sudden, mobile banking seems to be coming of age. Juniper Research has just put out a study predicting that the number of mobile phone users that use their phone for mobile banking transactions will exceed 150 million by 2011.

According to Juniper Research, mobile banking market is currently most advanced in the Far East, but that growing numbers of mobile banking services are being offered in North America and Western Europe. The developed nations of the Far East, North America and Western Europe are forecast to account for over 70% of the user base by 2011.

Also this week, and indicating that mobile banking isn't just about saturated mobile markets, MTN has announced plans to launch SIM-based mobile banking services in 21 countries across Africa. While regulators locally are a challenge they need to overcome in terms of agreeing just how these services will operate, the biggest issue is making the service usable and intuitive for the average subscriber.

So it's the user experience which is critical in driving mobile banking and mobile payments subscriber adoption... and with this we're seeing new companies like Pocit and Masabi emerging who are helping to change the rules of the way mobile phones can be used.

Developed by Aricent*, the mobile component of the Pocit application allows anyone with a credit card or bank account to make payments directly from the mobile application via a cell phone without having to know the recipient's specific banking details. Once registered with Pocit, a user can receive, send, request and store money. Optimising the processing and memory limitations of older devices while maximizing the features of new devices such as touch screens is no mean feat, but a critical factor if the app is going to be actually usable.

Masabi designs and builds secure applications mobile phones and is the leading developer of transactional software for the constrained environments of today's mass market mobile handsets. It's team of usability and security experts are working with national and international organisations in transport, banking & finance, theme parks & events, gaming and car parking in the provision of transactional payment and ticketing applications. Indeed, when it comes to using the mobile phone as a mechanism for micro-payments, the possibilities seem endless. (If you want a sense of what usability means in the world of mobile payments, check out the video of the Masabi mobile ticketing system.)

So with all the signs pointing towards mobile banking and payments technology maturing to the point of being ready for the average subscriber, it really is time (as MTN put it) to make the service available to as many consumers as possible and see what happens!

* Aricent is an AxiCom client

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