Absa unveils smartphone-powered credit card machine

Jan

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Here's the full press release for those that are interested... Stafford Masie (former Google SA boss) is CEO of thumbzup...

PR said:
In another first from Absa, the bank continues to broaden its payments strategy as part of a journey to make its customers lives easier with plans to launch a mobile payment acceptance service for businesses that works using a mobile phone.

Absa, a subsidiary of Barclays, has entered into an agreement with a local payment innovations company thumbzup, to enable businesses and entrepreneurs on-the-go across South Africa to accept debit or credit card payments using their smartphones or tablets through a world first, plug-in device called ‘The Payment Pebble.’

Under the agreement, Absa is set to provide its Payment Pebble as a value added service to all small business owners and merchants on-the-go with availability scheduled for early 2013.

Offering major improvement to card readers currently available in the market that ordinarily get attached to mobile phones to process merchant payments, the Pebble is a small card-reader device (taken from the concept of the size and shape of a pebble) that plugs into a 3.5mm audio input on any mobile smartphone or tablet and includes a mobile app.

As a first step, the merchant simply downloads the Pebble’s mobile app and, once registered, receives a pre-configured Payment Pebble that plugs into the mobile phone. Once plugged into the mobile phone Absa’s Pebble is turned into a mobile point-of-sale terminal where merchants can accept card payments in real-time anywhere in South Africa simply by “dipping” the card into the Pebble, entering the pin in a safe and secure manner and then following the prompts on the mobile app to conclude the transaction.

One of the key differentiating features of the technology is its ability to enable safe and secure payment acceptance as a pin entry device, for both chip and magnetic swipe strip cards. Another important benefit is that the Pebble is priced at a highly affordable price for small business, which will allow more merchants to accept card payments from their customers anytime anywhere. The Pebble is also extremely simple to use because it seamlessly interacts with any smartphone without the hassle of complex synchronisation or power supply concerns.

Speaking during the announcement of the strategic partnership today, Absa Head of Retail Markets, Arrie Rautenbach, said there was no other mobile acceptance device in the world that enables merchants to process payments remotely - with a plug in device - containing a mobile app that supports chip, pin and magnetic stripe cards and allows both debit and credit card transactions without the need for a power supply.

He said the technology would truly make the bank’s customers’ lives much easier. “It is a game changing innovation with the potential to transform the way in which entrepreneurs can safely accept offsite payments.”

Rautenbach continued to explain that the exclusive deal with thumbzup enabled Absa to launch this global-first solution to the South African market with further potential to export this to other African countries through a relationship with the bank’s parent company, Barclays.

Speaking at the same event, thumbzup CEO and founder Stafford Masie described the agreement as a major milestone for both organisations.

Says Masie: “We are extremely excited about our partnership with Absa, not only because we will bring a world first innovation to the market with the largest retail bank in South Africa. But because we have gained a business partner that understands our vision for payments into the future and a bank that is truly forward-thinking in their ambition to change the lives of their customers for the better. This is the success story of a local company achieving extraordinary things globally, and Absa made this happen.”

Absa leads the market with contactless card payments (tap and go), where the bank recently launched Potentiate, a first-of-its-kind lifestyle and financial solution with tap and go functionality. The tap and go card is a bank card that has a button and digital LCD display that provides a one-time PIN and allows clients to transact on any of their underlying credit, cheque and savings accounts. Being at the forefront of the country’s mobile banking strides, Absa has already run mobile payment trials with their staff using what is known as Near Field Communication (NFC). NFC is a technology that transforms cellphones into payment devices for individual consumer payments at point-of-sale terminals. The bank is also currently in beta phase for a transactional banking app for smartphones and tablet devices, expected to be released in early 2013.

“We have a strong global commitment to innovation. As the payment technology landscape changes Absa is focused on delivering pioneering solutions, to fundamentally transform the customer experience and build strong foundations for growth. The announcement of our partnership with thumbzup is critical to ensuring that we remain highly competitive in the payments industry and become the go-to-bank,” concludes Rautenbach.
 

DrJohnZoidberg

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I was wondering when we would get something like this over here. Surprised ABSA got there first though :p
 

Vegeta

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Sounds pretty damn easy to use as a skimming device. Phone or 3rd party app saves Mag strip data perp checks out your pin. 3rd party app "replays" that magstrip data to ABSA software, perp enters pin.

Why not use the NFC in new cellphones for the transactions and replace all current bank cards with NFC credit/debt cards. /drool
 
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werfie

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Is it also going to be offline every end of the month?
 

sly

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err.. the iPHONE 5 jack is at the bottom. where do i stick this thing in.. #designfail
 

2021

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err.. the iPHONE 5 jack is at the bottom. where do i stick this thing in.. #designfail
Yeah, iphone 5 dropped the ball there hey? Complete design fail by Apple.
 

Mr.Jax

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Anything on PCI compliance for this?

If ABSA (or any other bank for that matter), is using it, you can bet your @$$ that it will be PCI compliant.
We had some dealings with some of the banks and security is top priority no exceptions.
 

Ecco

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err.. the iPHONE 5 jack is at the bottom. where do i stick this thing in.. #designfail

Maybe i missed something - why cant it be used at the bottom? Sure its display might be upside down - but it will still work, and i am sure most of the interaction is through the phone rather then the small display on the unit.
 

SilverCode

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Maybe i missed something - why cant it be used at the bottom? Sure its display might be upside down - but it will still work, and i am sure most of the interaction is through the phone rather then the small display on the unit.
Also, not sure about the iPhone, but on my Android phone if I turn the phone upside down, the screen rotates to be the right way up, which completely negates the "problem" of the devices display being upside-down.
 

Rouxenator

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Switching companies like Traderoot have been doing this for years. They built Bluetooth readers that could be driven even by feature phones. As long as it had internet coverage and bluetooth you could process credit card transactions on it. It was mostly used higher up in Africa.
 

skimread

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world first
Mr Masie is full of bull. Hardly a world first. Square has been around for a long time.
This is just something that was done overseas and now brought to South Africa.
 
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2021

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Mr Masie is full of bull. Hardly a world first. Square has been around for a long time.
This is just something that was done overseas and now brought to South Africa.

Downplaying his achievements making you feel better yet?
 

Byte

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Very nice. Will be very helpful to me. I am surprised this is coming from ABSA though. FNB sleeping?
 

steed

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I am unsure why, but I am highly skeptical about the security of such a device. When the Phone is supplied by the merchant, what stops the merchant from being dishonest and running a "rooted" phone than can spy on everything this device says to the phone ? Android is still using the Linux kernel, and once you have root you can do literally anything. SSL and encryption is pointless in such a case when you can monitor everything. I wonder how long until people get pwned using this. Can anyone who has one of these devices see how much it leaks when non rooted ? If you enable usb debugging or use something like catlog, how much "sensitive" info does it leak already during transaction ?
 

lilors

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You're missing the oviaas epic fail - nothing stops the "buyer" from simply running away with your phone once you hand ut to him to enter his pin. This is South Africa after all...
 

Biscuit1018

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Sounds pretty damn easy to use as a skimming device. Phone or 3rd party app saves Mag strip data perp checks out your pin. 3rd party app "replays" that magstrip data to ABSA software, perp enters pin.

Why not use the NFC in new cellphones for the transactions and replace all current bank cards with NFC credit/debt cards. /drool

NFC aint making serious payment headway in the developed world

NFC not the answer imho
 
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