AT&T Takes Banking Mobile

AT&T brought its customers one step closer to the promise of mobile banking Tuesday when it announced partnerships with BancorpSouth and a number of other banks to offer banking capabilities to wireless users.

Customers of the participating banks who subscribe to AT&T’s wireless service can download a mobile banking application directly to their cell phone. From there, they can view their account balances, transfer funds between accounts, and receive and pay bills, much the way they have long been able to using a home PC.

All information on the application is password-protected and encrypted for security assurance, AT&T officials said.

In addition to BancorpSouth, other participating banks include Wachovia, Regions and Suntrust Bank. The banking application is from Firethorn Holdings, which also acts as an intermediary between AT&T and the banks.

“At BancorpSouth, a key emphasis is on offering our customers convenient, time-saving new ways of managing their money,” said Aubrey Patterson, BancorpSouth’s chairman and chief executive officer. “That is why we were the first financial institution to participate in a trial of mobile banking with AT&T and Firethorn, and that is why we are now making this application available to all of our customers.”

A Step in the Right Direction

“Big developments in wireless often start with a seed,” said Jim Ryan, vice president of data services at AT&T’s wireless unit. “For example, until just a few years ago, text messaging was a novelty, and now it is pervasive and hard-wired into our behavior. We believe that mobile banking will rapidly move up a similar curve of mass adoption with AT&T’s 61 million wireless customers.”

The new application certainly gives new capabilities to wireless customers and brings the U.S. market closer to capabilities already offered in many parts of Asia and Europe, where cell phones are commonly used instead of credit cards or cash. However, the move may be only an incremental step in the right direction.

“What’s really exciting is using cell phones as credit cards to pay for gas, groceries and other purchases,” Allyn Hall, director of wireless for In-Stat, told the E-Commerce Times. “This is only a small step in the right direction. In truth, there’s nothing you can do here that you couldn’t do before, if you had Internet access from your cell phone.”

‘Not Exactly Revolutionary’

The Firethorn software will undoubtedly make mobile banking easier than it was before, but overall Hall said the announcement is “not exactly revolutionary.”

“This is only part of the conversion of the cell phone into a full-fledged financial device — the other part will be using it for actual transactions,” agreed Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

Part of the reason other countries are so far ahead of the United States in this respect is because of a “classic American problem,” Hall pointed out. “Unlike countries like Japan, in which companies cooperate on standards and then compete afterwards, here in the U.S. we compete on standards,” he said.

The result is that “in the U.S. we’re paralyzed — we can’t agree on how to share the wealth or even on standards,” Hall continued. “Five years from now we could easily still be stuck in this same place.”

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Practical Ideas To Make Money With Software

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Not everyone who knows how to code software gets rich quick, if at all. But extra money can be generated from software coding as passive income from side projects or independent distribution of mobile apps and more.

Software coders typically work for commercial entities developing internal applications. Some coders contract software creation projects as independent software developers. Much like freelance writers, however, software coders all do not work for large software development operations. Many coders, especially those writing open-source software, are not in a position to demand top-notch payment for their coding skills.

Of course, talented independent coders can focus on writing the next great killer application. In such cases, the software creator can sell the product directly. But just like freelancers in any industry or trade, selling your product with enough volume to get rich quick is a dream that often falls flat.

Instead of rolling out commercially marketed and paid-for product and hoping for big profits, software coders can produce projects as freeware or open source and still make money. Even if they have another job, coders can develop and earn from their own projects without going commercial. The monetary rewards may trickle rather than flood into their bank accounts. But earning additional income as a software code writer sure is a better result than doing it as a hobby.

Coders are in high demand right now. The key is knowing how to monetize your software creations. You can do this even if you distribute your code for free.

You can offer your services to create a steady cash flow, regardless of what your full-time job may pay. Branching out as an independent coder can also provide the freedom of opportunity to shape your own career path.

Software Monetization Strategies

An effective way to get started making money on software is to launch a micro-SaaS offering by creating a software-as-a-service business, either on your own or with a small team of fellow coders. Tyler Tringas lays out all you need to know about this specialized slice of entrepreneurship in his e-book “Bootstrapping a profitable SaaS Business.”

For example, you could build an iOS or Android app. With a product in hand that you built yourself, you can tap into Google Play and Apple’s App Store. These are two of the biggest app marketplaces with 2.7 million and 1.8 million available apps respectively.

According to Sensor Tower, global app revenue grew 32 percent year-over-year in Q3 2020 to more than $29 billion. Global app spending approached $65 billion in the first half of 2021. That was up more than 24 percent YoY.

A second approach is to monetize one or more open-source projects you create. Developers earn money from successful open-source projects. Of course, you may have to double down on marketing to spread the word about the software’s existence.

Monetizing your software does not have to be overly complicated. Use similar approaches to content producers that display their videos on their own YouTube channels. YouTubers generate revenue from sponsorships and high channel views for their how-to and other topic videos they upload to the platform.

Another good method to generate income is putting donation buttons on your website. This is a strategy that an increasing number of Linux distribution developers use. Clever low-key methods like a “Buy Me a Coffee” button gives people a way to support you through donations or tips. Another option is GitHub sponsors. GitHub provides multiple sponsorship tiers that set monthly payment amounts and benefits.

Also consider what is traditionally called a freemium pricing model for your software. Offer a basic free version of your coding project. Then give satisfied users an opportunity to purchase a pro version with more and better features. This approach can span markets from personal helpful applications, that run on computers to mobile apps and productivity apps for SMB and enterprise users.

Why not adapt a monetizing tool successfully used by bloggers and newsletter writers — paid advertising? Earn money by offering ads on your project’s site. The more consistent finger traffic you have visiting your software project’s site, the more money you can charge advertisers. Do some internet searches to compile a list of advertising agencies to contact. These agencies can do all the leg work for you.

World Wide Web Wonders

Tap into the growing popularity of web browser extensions. You no doubt have some pet peeves about using web browsers that could be “fixed” with a browser extension. So write the code for this newfound convenience or productivity tool that makes the browser more efficient.

Extensions are small software programs written in HTML, CSS, or JavaScript that customize the browsing experience. They enable browser functionality and behavior tailored to individual needs or preferences.

You can monetize browser extensions using the same three options applied to SaaS monetization. Asses a one-time charge for users to gain access to your app. Or charge a subscription that collects a recurring fee from users, either monthly or yearly. Perhaps the most fluid approach is to rely on in-app payments from users after they install your extension for free and then pay for extra features during use.

A related strategy is to think beyond the web app. Computer users jump on the web to reach favorite services or digital stores. Instead of making browser extensions, shift your focus to developing shopping or e-commerce related apps for digital marketplaces such as Shopify.

Yes, build a Shopify app, a standalone web application that adds more functionality to an online store using the Shopify APIs. To find out what problems Shopify merchants need solved, check out Facebook groups and forums where merchants hang out.

When your app is ready, sell it via the Shopify App Store. It is set up with an integrated billing API. This makes your monetization convenient and reliable.

Yet another way to earn cash from your coding skills is to tap into the needs of Amazon’s cloud-based Alexa smart speaker universe. Submitting Alexa skills focuses on executing voice commands. You will not need to code user interfaces and visual designs.

Instead, just focus on Amazon’s Alexa development tools and APIs. Or build SDKs for Node.js, Python, and Java. Amazon even provides tutorials as a starting point.

Amazon makes monetizing your coding skills easy. You can use in-app purchases as noted above. Only here the process is dubbed in-skill purchasing. You offer paid features to existing users that are interacting with your skill. A better bet is participating in the Alexa Developer Rewards program. See full details here.

Inline Advertising

The inline advertising method provides revenue by linking paid ads to clicks on key words in the content of your software. You highlight certain words that relate to an ad a company pays you to display. When a user rolls over the words — for instance in About page comments, app direction pages, etc. — all within the content of your software, a box pops up with advertisements related to that word.

Another approach is to place paid advertisements on your program’s main screen or display them when the application user switches from one screen to another. Or you can modify that approach in placing ads elsewhere within you application.

For instance, make the ad appear while your program loads or before it is launches. You can even place an advertising banner within the application’s interface.

Tread Gently

Be careful not to overdo the use of ads or overt pleas for donations. Ads popping up randomly on device screens can be the kiss of death. Potential users of your software may have little patience for abusive ad placement. Especially when done excessively within a game or other piece of software, users can be unforgiving.

Their surefire cure for that kind of advertising within software is uninstalling it. Still, when ads and nudges for donations are orchestrated minimally, this type of monetization is a popular approach in mobile apps and in desktop software.

Provide your users with a reliable and useful mobile app, browser extension, or website plugin. If you do not overdo the included money pitches, most users will not want to give up your software creation. As an added monetization, offer them a one-time upgrade to an ad-free version.

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open-source technologies. He is an esteemed reviewer of Linux distros and other open-source software. In addition, Jack extensively covers business technology and privacy issues, as well as developments in e-commerce and consumer electronics. Email Jack.

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The Blockchain Solution for Secure Contactless Payments

The year 2020 forever changed the way we work and perform routine tasks. With the emergence of the deadly coronavirus and the resultant adoption of social distancing, even as the virus approaches its second anniversary, the concept of digital, contactless payments remains prevalent.

Prior to the pandemic, the digital payment sector had seen significant growth with the rise of mobile payment applications like PayPal and Apple Pay.

Contactless payment instruments like digital wallets and payment cards offer secure and fast transactions with less physical interaction, such as a tap of a mobile app or a payment card.

Still, these payments can become more secure, efficient, and faster with blockchain technology.

With Convenience Comes Risk

As contactless payment technology is steadily being integrated in devices, its demand has also increased. However, digital payments have their own setbacks that can lead to online fraud and security loopholes.

Data privacy and mobile security risks accompany the convenience of contactless payments. Since the user does not need a PIN, a stolen device or lost credit card can allow a criminal to easily access the account. A phone that has no security features in place can make it very convenient for anyone to make purchases without being detected.

Add to that, contactless payment cards use radio frequency identification (RFID) to transmit data, and hackers have invented card skimmers and fake scanners to steal this data. Once they have the information on the card, criminals can create exact copies of the cards to use for fraudulent purposes. However, mobile wallets use near field communication (NFC) to transmit data within close ranges and are considered somewhat safe.

Enter Blockchain Technology

Blockchain technology is based on a distributed ledger which stores and updates transactions in real time. Each transaction that is recorded on a block has a time stamp, which makes it impossible to tamper with the data. Hence, blockchain promotes security and trust in transactions for both seller and buyer. When payment is done through a system based on blockchain, the transactions are fast, secure, and contactless — where both parties also trust each other. Moreover, as the data is encrypted, it is not possible for anyone to modify it.

How It Works

With the help of blockchain technology, transactions are recorded in multiple separate blocks. Therefore, if one block is attacked, the other blocks would still have the information safe and secure.

When trying to hack a system based on blockchain, criminals would need to have incredible computing power to overcome and compromise the multitude of blocks simultaneously. This means that it is nearly impossible to hack a blockchain-based system.

To better understand this, consider that you have a cash note which has an encrypted data ledger. It has the details of all the transactions on it during the entire course of its lifetime. When you get the note, you can see all its transaction history and can decide whether the person giving you the note is trustworthy enough to conduct a transaction with.

This is what blockchain delivers — an additional layer of security and trust to ensure that all parties remain satisfied and secure after a transaction.

Many companies have already incorporated blockchain for boosting their contactless payments. SETL, a London-based fintech company, in partnership with Deloitte has developed a blockchain-based contactless payment card for secure and faster retail transactions.

According to Deloitte, in addition to enhancing security, the use of blockchain in contactless payment also makes the payment process and settlements more efficient. The two technologies combined can save up to US$80 billion in accompanying costs.

Fraud Prevention

Further, with contactless payments powered by blockchain, merchants are more able to recognize fraudulent customers and correspondingly take all-important precautions. They can also give verification to genuine customers, determine whether a transaction is unusual, or if a customer was involved in prior fraud.

Contactless payments powered by blockchain does not let any party have an upper hand because all the data of each user can be verified, without invading their privacy.

Similarly, when customers pay through a blockchain-based contactless payment system, they can see the merchant’s transaction history and find out if it has been fair or fraudulent in the past. The system keeps a record of past fraudulent instances by a merchant and shares it with customers to warn them. The merchant cannot change the data because it is stored in an encrypted ledger.

Conclusion

Blockchain technology has emerged as an innovative solution for fast, transparent, and secure financial transactions.

As companies continue to adopt the technology, governments can think about forming advanced solutions that replace traditional systems and ensure security, faster payments, and negligible number of fraudulent payments.

The government of China, for instance, has already developed projects based on blockchain that will allow sellers, buyers, and intermediaries to conduct contactless digital transactions.

Blockchain technology can also be leveraged to support an array of public and government sector applications including digital payments, identity management, land registration, healthcare, electoral voting, and supply chain traceability.

David Smith is a cryptographer with 12 years of experience in both the public and private sectors. He is also is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) specializing in Network and IoT Security. Connect with David on LinkedIn.

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