Absa readying Pebble launch
The bank’s mobile phone point-of-sale device, developed by a company led by technology entrepreneur Stafford Masie could be launched within days of receiving approval from international regulators. By Craig Wilson.
The Payment Pebble, the mobile phone point-of-sale device developed by Thumbzup and announced in November 2012, has been delayed by regulatory hurdles, says Absa, the bank partner that will launch the product.
Absa had said the product would be launched in the first half of 2013, but was unable to meet this target because it decided, with parent Barclays, that the Pebble should comply with international standards and regulations, not just South African ones, to allow it to be sold overseas.
This is according to Willie van Zyl, head of Absa’s card-acquiring business. “The first important thing the market needs to understand is that we’re not reselling an international solution,” Van Zyl says. “We’re building this from the ground up with Thumbzup and although we’re launching it in South Africa first, we’re using South Africa as a as proxy for the rest of the world before exporting it to other markets.”
Thumbzup is a local technology company founded by entrepreneur and angel investor Stafford Masie.
Commercial launch will follow within months of a pilot project starting, says Van Zyl. “If we get the paperwork today, we can have the Pebble in pilot tomorrow.”
He can’t say when final sign-off will happen, but adds that it’s not in Absa’s interests — or that of its customers — for the pilot to drag on for a long time.
“We’re hoping for three months from pilot to commercial launch,” he says. Thousands of merchants will be involved in the pilot. “Merchants are lined up and are champing at the bit.”
Absa is working closely with EMVCo — the international company owned by American Express, JCB, MasterCard, UnionPay and Visa that sets the specifications for chip-based card devices — to ensure the Pebble meets its stringent standards. “We’ve received feedback that this is the most sophisticated mobile point-of-sale device they’ve seen,” he says.
The Pebble has also been vetted by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council, another body that sets standards for card payments.
Van Zyl says this is necessary to ensure the device can be rolled out to other markets and so that its innovations — such as a scrolling-wheel Pin entry method — are patented and protected.
Absa evidently has high hopes for the Pebble and thinks it’s worth waiting until the product is perfect before releasing it, despite rival like Nedbank having launched its own, albeit different, mobile payments solution.
“The Pebble will be what the iPod was to the music industry because it will change mobile payments in a fundamental way,” Van Zyl says. “It’s built in South Africa, for South Africa, but it has captured the imagination of the world. There’s great expectation and anticipation.”
Absa will export the product to the rest of the world through Barclays. — (c) 2013 NewsCentral Media
- See also: The story behind Absa’s Pebble