[AI] When money is the message
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Sun Feb 3 06:57:35 EST 2008
Date:03/02/2008 URL: http://www.thehindu.com/2008/02/03/stories/2008020355371100.htm
When money is the message
- Photo: Special Arrangement
Smarter messaging: New mobile tools seamlessly link phone to Web.
Bangalore: In an earlier, pre-Internet era, Marshall McLuhan warned: "The Medium is the Message." Were he around today, the Canadian media pundit might
be tempted say: "The Money is the Message" - thanks to the mobile phone.
Sending short messages to make payments for a variety of services is catching on, courtesy a choice of e-payment enablers in India. Obopay, the U.S.-based
pioneer in mobile payment mechanisms, has come to India.
There are a lot of Indians with a mobile phone - over 250 million of them, but only a fraction has bank accounts. Bringing a convenient method to transfer
money, receive salaries and other payments, buy tickets, do electronic transactions, and even split and pay restaurant bills will be a compelling proposition
to the customer, says Aditya Menon, Obopay India's executive director.
Fuelled by a made-in-India technology, another player, mChek India Payment Systems, has created banking and security applications including many for the
mobile user. Most recently it extended its mobile-based payment system for Airtel, building the payment gateways into a variety of banner advertisements
one may find on web pages. A click on the banner allows the user to enter his or her mobile number and indicate how much one wants to pay to top up a prepaid
connection or settle a post-paid bill, using credit card details already stored securely at mChek.
Airtel has also partnered with Affle, a U.K.-based mobile media company driven by Indian talent, to upgrade its short messaging services to SMS 2.0 - adding
some 'smart' features such as a choice of text styles, colours and 'emoticons' (graphic symbols). But the key difference is the advertisement or information
content that occupies the bottom of the page while one is texting. It is 'pulled' from your phone and displayed - for you to just read and enjoy (jokes,
cricket trivia and news) or follow through for an advertiser's message. Some might think this is yet another intrusive technology, but service providers
are banking on the curiosity of many phone owners who in any case spend idle hours playing games. You may not 'send' money in the sense mCheks and Obopays
intend, but as you read the added content you are letting someone, somewhere, make money, using the empty space on the texting window of your phone. Sneaky,
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