Whenever we read any news about mobile payments, it seems like it’s always about the same things: smart phones, NFC, Square, Google Wallet and so on. If you have a similar impression, then here’s something refreshing: Moneta – a payment scheme that doesn’t require NFC, attaching anything to your cell phone or installing any apps. Actually, you don’t even need a smart phone – any cell phone will do just fine!
So how does it work? What’s the technology behind Moneta? It’s actually as simple as a phone call. And I mean it literally – data is transmitted over a voice connection!
This means that a brand new iPhone 4S will be as good as any other mobile phone, including those manufactured 10 years ago! All you need to do in order to make a payment, is to dial a number and place your phone near a terminal for a moment. And presto, you’ve just paid. Here’s a YouTube video that shows how it looks like in practice:
Pretty neat, right? Of course a merchant has to own a special terminal that will allow to make such a payment, but apparently there’s no problem finding those in Slovenia, where Moneta is popular. And something tells me it’s not going to stop there.
Ok, let’s calm down for a moment and ask ourselves: is it really that good? Or aren’t there any problems? Maybe it’s just an interesting alternative, but nothing more?
Well, it’s an alternative all right, and yes – there are some problems. But I guess it’s quite natural for every technology to have its own issues. For example, the system has to deal with all kinds of noise – a payment may be done in different environments, like a noisy restaurant or a train station. Furthermore, it turns out that phones make it more difficult as well. They tend to filter out some sounds that aren’t similar to human voice. Of course this is done in order to improve our phone calls, but it does make it more difficult to transfer data over a voice connection. However, it seems like engineers from Moneta got all this covered and solved. As I’ve been told, a team of 60 people work on optimizing data transmission over voice.
But apart from technical issues, is there really place for such solutions today, when there’s so much buzz about smart phones? If you ask me this question, you’ll get a definitive yes. There’s actually a lot of such buzz, but still most of mobile phones in use are not smart phones. Their owners cannot install any Android or iOS apps, but they still may be willing to pay in a convenient way. Of course smart phones are still conquering markets and finding more and more users, but on the other hand – I think there always will be people who will choose “regular” cell phones (I could write a separate post about the reasons for this :)).
Ok, we know about how it works, but you’re probably curious how do you actually pay using Moneta? It’s pretty simple and there’s no need for signing up for eWallets of any kind.
There are two main options. If you are a post-paid mobile phone user, you simply get some funds to spend from your mobile operator. The amount is charged to your phone bill and you can easily check all transactions – they’re stated separately from phones, SMS/MMS or data services.
It’s also possible for any mobile phone user to go to a partner bank and simply apply for Moneta, and have it linked directly to the bank account. This way using a mobile phone is similar to using a debit card.
Of course it’s possible to check spending via SMS or a web application.
Who’s behind all this?
Margento is the company that developed the technology for Moneta. But don’t confuse it with Magento, the ecommerce platform. It’s easy to remember when you know that M stands for “mobile” and the second part is from latin argentum, which means silver. So it’s mobile money ;) Moneta’s website is unfortunately available only in Slovenian (you can always use a translator), but if you’re into such solutions, you can also find some interesting information on Margento’s website (English this time).