Gordon Swaby

NCB’s Quisk and the future of mobile money in Jamaica

Mobile money is here to stay. I’ve been following the development of mobile money in Jamaica for years. From the ideas floated around regarding its development, to the eventual draft guidelines from the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ), and the final guidelines which were released in February 2013 after taking into consideration feedback from stakeholders. You can view the guidelines here.

What is Mobile Money?

The value of mobile money isn’t immediately obvious to most. In fact, I’ve found that most people generally have a hard time wrapping their head around the concept, but follow me. I want you to think about how you pay for goods and services now, say, your meal at lunch time or anything else you’d buy in a store. You’re either going to pay by cash, debit or credit card. As it is, most Jamaicans pay with cash.  Mobile money, as it is called, allows you to make and receive payments through your mobile telephone without needing a bank account. Fancy!

To deposit or withdraw money from your mobile money account you are required to go to an access point. A number of companies, both local and foreign, are interested in and will eventually roll out their own mobile money solutions in Jamaica. The first to hit the Jamaican market was Conec, but for various reasons  they have not been able to penetrate the market. In some regard, one of the major challenges that Conec has faced has been too few access points. Currently, the only access points that Conec has are Paymaster and credit union locations.

The second challenge that they face is in regards to merchants accepting Conec. As it stands only about 12 locations islandwide accept Conec Mobile wallet as a form of payment, clearly not enough. I should note that merchants that allow you to shop also allow you to withdraw or deposit your money, i.e. they act as Conec access points.

After being around for more than a year, I would have expected Conec to have expanded to more locations, but alas.

The third problem that Conec faces is what is required to use their service. Not only do you need a smart phone, you also need a data plan. So there’s no way to use their mobile money solution without downloading their Android or iOS app. This is of course is not ideal if they want mass adoption.

Enter Quisk

National Commercial Bank (NCB), Jamaica’s largest commercial bank, recently rolled out their own mobile money solution in partnership with Advanced Integrated Systems (AIS). The service is called Quisk, and of all the solutions I’ve seen, I’m most optimistic about its ability to penetrate the Jamaican market. Quisk’s mobile solution is however not exclusive to NCB, and other banks will be partnering with AIS to roll out Quisk in the near future.

For me, the two biggest things needed for mass adoption of mobile money in Jamaica are convenient access points to deposit and withdraw money, and merchants/business places that will accept Quisk as a form of payment. NCB has both. Through their branch locations (for withdrawals and deposits), but more importantly through their 280 ABMs and  19,962 point of sale terminals islandwide.  Quisk works with existing bank infrastructure, that means you’ll be able to go into an NCB ABM at some point in the near future to deposit and withdraw cash from your Quisk account. You’ll also be able to go to a store with an NCB point of sale terminal and easily make a purchase or withdrawal (at authorized locations).

Person to person (P2P) transfers through Quisk can easily be done via SMS text messaging. It’s as simple as somebody typing SEND <your phone number> <the amount> to a Quisk number. Once you type that and hit send you’ll receive a call from Quisk. At that point you’ll be prompted to enter your Quisk pin number and the pound (#) key. One that has been entered, Quisk will notify the person that you are sending the money to via sms/text message. Quisk will also give you a code for the person receiving the money. All the recipient will need to do to accept the money is type GET <the code you gave them> and that’s it, the money is now available to them. At that point they can either withdraw the money or use it to make a payment (at some point through Quisk itself, e.g a bill payment).

NCB launched Quisk a few days ago, so it’s early days yet. So far they have about 20 merchants/businesses that accept Quisk

How to Sign Up

Acquiring a mobile money account is  extremely easy. All you need to do is fill out a simple form, go to one of the NCB branches listed with your TRN and an ID and you’re good to go. Compare that process to opening a regular savings account, where you’d need two forms of identification,  proof of address and two reference letters. Crazy right?

You don’t need to have an account with NCB to sign up, but if you do you can actually ask them to connect it to your Quisk mobile money account. Doing so means that you can transfer money from your NCB account to your Quisk account. You unfortunately can’t transfer from your Quisk account to your NCB savings account.

Any mobile money solution that is successful in Jamaica will be extremely disruptive. It means that people will no longer need to stand in line to pay their utility bills, or any other bill for that matter. It means that you’ll be able to pay the taxi man through your phone.

It also opens the door in the future for internet companies to accept mobile money as a form of payment for their services. As I mentioned before, it’s still early days, but the possibilities are endless. NCB is well positioned to become the leading mobile money solutions provider in Jamaica. If not them, I suspect it’s going to be a tussle between Flow and Digicel who I know are both working on their own solutions. Interesting and exciting days ahead, may the best company win!


Sirius Satellite Radio in Jamaica: A guide

Jamaican radio is great ok, but sometimes a little diversity is good.  For those who need that diversity the answer is SiriusXM Satellite Radio 

What is Sirius ?

This is how they describe it:

Welcome to commercial-free music from every genre, live play-by-play sports, the biggest news and talk, and the hottest entertainment at your fingertips, 24/7. Welcome to an All Access package that lets you listen to all of it everywhere — in your car, at home or the office on your computer, or on your smartphone and tablet.

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I’ve always wanted Sirius in my vehicle, but didn’t fully explore how to do it until recently. I couldn’t find any information online regarding getting it done in Jamaica so I had to quiz a friend of mine who had it, hence this guide.

Steps

Step 1: Don’t make the mistake I did, I purchased the wrong device initially 🙁  Sirius comes in different flavors, I got the cheapest one. It’s called the SiriusXM Satellite Radio SSV7V1 Stratus 7 Satellite Radio . You can find it here,on Amazon for about $50 US.  So, theoretically only people living the in USA are supposed to have Sirius, but hey, it works here, so I can’t complain. I made the mistake and purchased this, it’s IMPORTANT that the device has “Sirius” labelled on it. The reason? Sirius and XM, even though they’re the same companies (one bought the other) use different satellites, the latter doesn’t work in Jamaica

Step 2: When you finally have the device in hand, you will need to install it in your vehicle. I couldn’t do it, so I used Auto Traders Jamaica located on Old Hope Road. Of course if you’re savvy enough, you can DIY.

Step 3: The last step, this part gave me some issues. You’ll need to contact Sirius and ask them to send a signal to your radio to activate. Their contact number is a toll free number so you can’t call them from your Jamaican phone, therefore you’ll need to use a VOIP app like Skype, Google Hangouts, Viber or any similar app. You can also visit their website from your phone and ask them to activate via chat. Please note, the radio will need to be on for them to activate  They have different subscription options, you can find them here. I am currently on their Sirius All Access package for $18.99 per month + tax. Their other options are: Sirius Select,  Sirius  Mostly Music, [ Sirius News, Sports & Talk, Sirius Family-Friendly, SiriusXM All-in-One and Sirius A La Carte – These are hidden at the bottom of their page — sneaky bastards ]. Your Scotiabank Visa Debit card or any local dual currency visa or mastercard will work fine. You will however need to use a US address ( I used my shipme address).

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My favorite stations (so far):

  • Howard Stern (101)
  • CNN (115)
  • BBC (118)
  • Wharton Business Radio (111)
  • Joint (Reggae music) (042)
  • Pulse
  • BPM

I hope this helps, if you need any help leave a comment and I’ll try my best.

P.S You can subscribe and listen to Sirius without having the radio in your vehicle. The alternative is listening to it on your phone, tablet or on your computer.

 


The bastard child, A Samsung Galaxy S4 review

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I have only ever owned two brands of smartphones – Blackberries and iPhones. I’m an Apple fan; I love Apple products and I’ve owned many of them. Currently, I own an iPad 3, an iPhone 4 and a mid-2012 Macbook Pro –I’m deeply entrenched in the Apple ecosystem and it has worked really well for me. I’ve never had anything favorable to say about Android devices, but I’ve never actually used one extensively either.

I’ve been using a Samsung Galaxy S4 for exactly one week and… wow. Transitioning from a 4  x 5 grid, 640 x 960 pixels, 3.5 inches 1 GHz 2010 iPhone 4 running iOS 6 to a 1080 x 1920 pixels, 5.0 inches, Quad-core 1.6 GHz, 2013 Samsung S4 running Android’s Jelly Bean, wow, wow, wow. The difference in specs is ridiculous, but even bigger for me is the difference in operating system functionality.

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The  Galaxy S4, Samsung’s latest flagship phone, is the successor to the S3,  a widely popular phone that did really well ( and still does). No doubt one of the best phones to start my Android experience with. My introduction to the S4 and the Android operating system was weird. It went something like ( in this particular order):

1. Yeah! this is a pretty cool phone: The novelty of a new phone, obviously curious and excited to “get into it”.

2, Jesus, I’m overwhelmed; I have no idea where to start: Personalizing the phone was a challenge – you know, the basic things like changing the notification sounds for apps, understanding and utilizing widgets, configuring the home screen etc

3. I hate this damn phone; I’m going back to my iPhone:  After not being able to figure things out, I started to become frustrated. I also missed some iOS features, albeit small ones, but sometimes small features are the best ones; features you’ll never miss until you don’t have them anymore. The openness of Android vs Apple’s closed restricted approach is really what sets both platforms apart. Both have their pros and cons. I’ll give examples. Because of Apple’s “closed” approach you’ll find that your experience on the platform is usually consistent, i.e if you’re using a third party or a system application you can be guaranteed that some procedures will always be the same, one such example of this is copying and pasting. The procedure of copying and pasting is the same, no matter what application you use.

Another system-wide feature that I love is tapping the status bar in iOS to “jump to the top” of an application. So, let’s say you’re scrolling through some pictures on instagram and you want to get back to the top of the page, you would simply tap the status bar once and it will instantly bring you back to the top of the page. Those are examples  of  benefits to Apple’s closed nature; a consistent and predictable experience. Now because of this closed approach, iOS is not without its limitations.  A couple of which are: system apps like the  native calendar, calculator, email, photos, messages, camera etc cannot be changed from being your default app. So, let’s say you downloaded a third party calendar app. You would not be able to set said app as your default application.

These are some of the many annoyance of iOS, but I forgot about those annoyances briefly while using Android. Unlike iOS, you don’t have a consistent experience across applications. For example, copying/pasting text may vary from app to app. I found this extremely annoying. There’s also no streamlined way to jump to the top of an application.

4. Ok, I’m starting to figure things out. It’s not so bad:  I decided to look past this and focus more on the virtues of the phone and realized there were many that I liked. Some of which are Android features while others are specific to the Samsung S4.

5. Wow, I love this phone: I love the LED light on the front of the phone that can flash in any color you want ( a particular color can represent a specific notification), I love the S4’s brilliant 5″ AMOLED screen, the battery life is amazing – with tethering on, screen brightness at 100%, GPS on and other features I still managed to go through a whole day with battery life left ( from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM). I love airview, but found the other features that Samsung is pushing to be gimmicky. I should also note that these features are limited to system apps.  Widgets can be really useful on a phone with a screen as big as the Samsung s4’S. See my schedule and my to-do list at a glance is really useful, unlike on iOS where I have to actually open the application to see appointments and to-dos. The ability to add widgets to the lock screen is also a plus.

 

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Another general Android feature that I like is the interconnectivity between apps. This is a really powerful feature that has me hooked. Let’s say you took a picture from your iPhone’s camera and you wanted to edit it. To do this you’d have 1. Take the picture, 2. Open the app you want to edit it in, 3. Browse for the picture in the app 3. Open and edit. The process would be the same for other applications. If you wanted to upload it to Dropbox for example, you would need to actually open dropbox and find the picture to upload it. I should also mention that you’re limited to uploading videos and photos in iOS ( You can however get around this with a little hackery)

On Android the process is much easier. You would simply take the picture and share with any application that supports it. Whether it’s sending it to dropbox, twitter, your picture editing app or wherever.

 

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The S4’s camera is great, but I’ve chosen not to focus on features that have been widely reviewed  elsewhere online.

To conclude, The Samsung 4S is a really powerful phone that can be overwhelming at first, but you’ll grow to love it more everyday. If you’re an iPhone user and you’re considering an Android phone to switch to this would be a safe bet. You’ll miss a couple iOS features at first, but you’ll love the openness of Android.

  Disclosure: My Samsung Galaxy S4 was a gift from Samsung. This, however, did not influence how I reviewed the phone. 

 


Jamaica Yellow Pages iOS app review

I don’t usually do app reviews for Jamaica iOS apps, usually because they’re underwhelming, but Jamaica YP got it right! It’s an app I’ve wanted for years.

Layout

The layout is basic, but pleasing to the eye. You’re presented with 12 default categories when you first open the app. They are: Attorneys, Auto Parts, Computer Sales, Dentists, Doctors, Hardware, Hotels, Optical, Pharmacies, Restaurants, Schools and Used Cars. There’s also  a search bar at the top. You have the option of typing or speaking (facilitated by nuance)  your search term for a particular business or a category that isn’t in the default 12.

Functionality

Tapping one of the icons on the home screen takes you to a listing of businesses,  There are two views. The first is a vertical listing of businesses and the second is a map view.  On the former view The name of the business, phone number and address is shown. A mail, ad ( if the business has an actual ad in the directory you can view) and web icon is shown if applicable to that particular business. For the vertical listing view there are 3 sort options: Distance ( How far the business is from you), Relevance and Alphabetical order.

Clicking on a business’ name will give you additional details about it and also give you access to additional features, namely  Add Contact ( adds the entry to your address book automatically, Share ( shares business details via email) and Directions ( Takes you to the iOS maps application and plots route to the business from your current location)

 

Closing Thoughts

As I said earlier, this is a well put together app so I don’t have a lot of complaints. Apart from the occasional freezing and crashing it holds up pretty well. I couldn’t ask for much else.  The sort by distance feature can also be particularly useful when you’re in a parish and you need to find something nearby e.g a restaurant, gas station etc.


Apple’s Supply-Chain Secret? Hoard Lasers 

Most of Apple’s customers have probably never given that green light a second thought, but its creation speaks to a massive competitive advantage for Apple: Operations. This is the world of manufacturing, procurement, and logistics in which the new chief executive officer, Tim Cook, excelled, earning him the trust of Steve Jobs

This is true.


Lastpass now supports Google Authenticator 

We’re happy to announce the inclusion of Google Authenticator as a new multifactor authentication option for LastPass. With the latest LastPass plugin and a supported mobile device, you can now use your phone in conjunction with your master password to generate a secure key that is needed to login to your account. Authenticator token support has been a hotly anticipated addition to LastPass, and we’re happy to make good on that obligation to our users.

We strongly believe in multifactor as being an excellent way to protect your sensitive data, and so we are opening this feature up to all LastPass users, including free accounts. For further information on setting up your account with Google Authenticator, or running it on unsupported devices, please see our helpdesk article.

This is great news. I’ve been a long time user of lastpass. And I’ve written about them more than once on this blog.


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