Absa has launched what it claims is a world first with the Payment Pebble — a mobile payments device designed especially for entrepreneurs and small businesses.
The device, scheduled for launch in 2013, is a partnership between the bank and South African payment innovations company thumbzup. It allows to accept debit or credit card payments using their smartphones or tablets in a similar fashion to the likes of Square in the US.
Absa claims however that it is a “major improvement to card readers currently available in the market that ordinarily get attached to mobile phones to process merchant payments”. The device plugs into a 3.5mm audio input on any mobile smartphone or tablet and includes a mobile app.
As a first step, the merchant 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” by “dipping” the card into the Pebble, entering the pin and then following the prompts on the mobile app to conclude the transaction.
According to Absa there are a couple of other things that set the Pebble apart from similar kinds of card readers. One of these key differentiating features it claim is the ability for the Pebble “to enable safe and secure payment acceptance as a pin entry device”, for both chip and magnetic swipe strip cards. It also claims that the Pebble is priced at a “highly affordable price for small business”.
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.”
thumbzup CEO and founder Stafford Masie meanwhile described the agreement as a major milestone for both organisations:
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.
“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,” says Rautenbach.
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