In a world where social distancing is the new normal, touchless technologies begin to gain more and more interest. Before the global pandemic, people didn’t think twice before touching door handles, elevator buttons, or check-in kiosks. But as we speak, high touch surfaces are a hot topic as worries over health and safety are on the rise. As a result, fintech innovators and not only, are looking for ground-breaking alternatives to keep us all safe.
‘Work from home’ is certainly not a permanent alternative, since many businesses require employees to be physically present to get the job done. As you probably heard this before, Coronavirus is not likely to go away anytime soon, so touchless technologies seem like a great opportunity to get things back to normal. In response, some companies started to implement a touchless check-in process for visitors or even Bluetooth access control for employees.
It seems like it’s the perfect time to go touchless. Even if this need is forced by uncontrollable factors, such as a global pandemic, we should look on the bright side of it and become aware that going touchless is in our own good. So, let’s go over some examples of touchless technologies and find out more about it in general.
What are we trying to say by ‘going touchless’?
Well, despite how relevant this topic is as we speak, businesses going touchless is not new. In fact, touchless technology has been around since the late 1980s when motion-sensing faucets and soap dispensers were common within public restrooms. Today, we experience touchless technology several times a day. Just think of how many times you walk through an automated door or think of those moments when you ask Siri to turn on the timer for you.
As you can see, touchless technology is not limited to hygiene and safety. Societies look up to it and treat it as a forward-thinking and modern alternative to complete daily tasks. With that being said, we can define touchless technology as anything that can function without the need to physically touch a device.
Example of touchless technologies
This is among the most common types of touchless technology. The way we interact with devices is simply replaced by gestures. For instance, waving your hand to activate an automated door replaces the need to physically touch its knob or button.
Similar to gesture recognition, touchless sensing can detect the movement of an individual under a sensor. In our day to day lives, we come across this no-touch technology several times per day. Think of the last time that you went to a gas station, grocery store, or lodging facility. Most likely, there was no one to open the door for you and you didn’t have to do it yourself either. Thanks to touchless sensing, such actions are simplified and become part of our daily routine.
This form of touchless technology enables users to control a device by speaking to it. Android and Apple devices can be controlled by simply stating some keywords, such as ‘Hey Siri’, replacing the need to touch that device at all. Setting up reminders, timers or other tasks is as quick and simple as ever.
Not long ago, facial recognition seemed to be far from reality. Now, this touchless technology is available for millions of people, most often utilized to unlock smartphones. However, as more people gained interest in its capabilities, innovators found great use cases and environments where it can be applied. The KLM Royal Dutch Airlines started a test involving ‘biometric boarding’, allowing passengers to board the aircraft without showing their ID’s anymore, recognizing passengers by their faces.
Apple Pay has proved that traditional credit cards can be left behind and that payments can be completed from our own devices. Compared to contactless payments, where users must touch the POS with a card to complete a transaction, personal devices provide a ‘cleaner’ alternative where that ‘touch’ is not necessary to successfully complete a transaction. Modern personal devices can store your credit/debit cards virtually. For safety reasons, upon completing a purchase, users can authenticate by using their own faces or by inputting a personal identification number.
Oveit as a touchless payment solution
At Oveit, we strongly believe
in the power of touchless technologies, especially during the current
situation, that of a global pandemic. Until now, our Economy as a Service
solution was partially touchless since economy members were required to visit an
on-site top-up point to add money onto their digital wallets.
To tackle this challenge and identify ourselves as a complete touchless solution, we started to think the extra mile and concluded that an end-user App is what we need. The purpose of this App is to enhance the experience of our end-users, enabling them to top-up money in a defined economy, from the comfort of their own houses or wherever an internet connection is available.
For economy owners, this alternative should reduce costs, with fewer staff members required. Economy members simply become their own cashiers and upon arrival, their digital wallets should be ready to go. Also, if activated, the auto top-up feature allows users to set a warning limit. As soon as that warning limit is reached, the digital wallet automatically adds up the pre-defined amount from the linked credit/debit card.
There are as many as 500,000 people experiencing homelessness in America. Governments allocate funds for shelters and food, but poverty is still a big challenge in many parts of the world. Some consider that these funds lack the right amount of transparency, leading to unfair and insufficient allocated resources for those in need. The long chain of intermediaries and lack of transparency are the main challenges when it comes to distributing funds in general, but especially for homeless shelters and other social services.
Unfortunately, these are questions that most government officials and citizens don’t have an answer to. There is no wonder why substance abuse, mental illness, and violence are so common among homeless people. The available data tells us that 37% are children, 8% are veterans and the remaining 48% are disabled.
Would you reconsider giving out some spare change to a homeless person if you were assured that your money contributes to their well-being? Personally, I would. This is not targeted solely for us, as the working class, but also for governments offering financial aid for people in need. If authorities cannot know for sure where allocated funds end up, how can we know any better?
In this post, we will go over innovative ways and available solutions aimed to distribute assets for people in need, instead of traditional ways of doing so.
Digital Tokens as an alternative in the Social Sector
Tokens have been around for quite some time. They were used in different forms, long before the emergence of blockchain technology. Usually, they can represent any kind of economic value. Some examples of tokens are casino chips, vouchers, gift cards, bonus points within a loyalty program, club access tokens such as a stamp on your hand, club memberships, and so on. They include in-built counterfeiting protocols to prevent people from cheating the system. In some countries, recyclable bottles might be looked at as tokens. To purchase a product that is stored in a recyclable bottle, one would have to pay a certain amount on top of the initial price. Losing the bottle means that you lose your deposit.
Nowadays, tokens have evolved considerably. We mostly find them in digital forms rather than paper vouchers or plastic coins. The most important achievement is related to the underlying technology used by end-users to share and exchange such assets, that of blockchain. Many find it as a breakthrough alternative to transparent and decentralized transactions. To keep on track, let’s get back to how this innovative solution might help people living in poverty and assure a secure and transparent purchase behavior.
Philanthropy and international aid
An increasing number of charities and non-profit foundations shifted away from traditional ways of receiving donations to accepting donations directly from donors through bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. On top of that, a number of foundations created their own ‘charity tokens’ to raise money for various social impact projects. For instance, the Clean Water Coin enables donors to purchase and donate by using cryptocurrencies, without any additional fees and intermediaries involved in the process.
Identity and land rights
In a recent study, the United Nations concluded that one in every five people globally lacks a legal identity. For refugees that are always on the run, the rates might be higher. The Humanized Internet is a project that enables vulnerable people to store their identifiers, such as birth certificates or university degrees on a blockchain, taking the form of distributed digital lockboxes. This way, people that have challenges with maintaining physical identification copies can take advantage of their privileges.
Applied cases – Ground-breaking solutions for people in need
A relatively new social innovation project, called Greater Change, provides homeless people with QR code badges. Pedestrians who wish to help can simply donate by scanning that code with their phone camera and make an online payment in a matter of seconds. That donation is transferred into a personal account managed by a caseworker, whose duty is to ensure that donated money is spent on real needs, such as rental savings, food, or a new identification document.
“The problem we’re trying to solve here is that we live in an increasingly cashless society and as well as this when people give they worry about what this money might be spent on,”
GiveTrack positions itself as a revolutionary donation platform. It enables donors to track their donations in real-time, providing transparency and accountability to donors by sharing financial information and live project results. Compared to traditional non-profit systems, this one offers low to no transaction fees, traceability of funds in real-time and cryptographic security. Fraudulent actions are nearly impossible to intervene along the way.
As we live in a cashless society, helping others in need can be a real challenge. However, it is great to see that people become aware and act accordingly. GiveSafe proves again that it’s possible to help others in a cashless world. This solution enables people to invest directly and with clarity into someone struggling through homelessness. The app sends you a notification when you are passing by a person living in poverty. You have access to their personal stories and critical needs, providing you with a better understanding of their current situation. The payment is processed through the app and donations can only be used at partnered stores to buy what they need to survive or leave the streets.
Using Oveit to help those in need
Not long ago, we started to think out of the box and identify different applications for our cashless solution. We concluded that our available features could extend far beyond events & venues, with economies and communities as relevant candidates. Therefore, we decided to categorize our software as an ‘Economy as a Service’ solution, with a lot of potential use cases.
Among the different use cases, we consider that Oveit could be a viable solution for helping those living in poverty. How exactly? Well, our technology enables economy owners to onboard external vendors and become part of it. The economy owner, which in this case might be a local authority or other organization has total control over businesses part of the economy. As we talk about people in need, the process of adding money onto digital wallets takes a different turn. The economy owner has the option to top-up digital wallets with a certain amount, replacing the need for the end-user (people in need) to do so.
The digital wallet can take on different forms. Ranging from wristbands to cards or QR codes, economy owners can decide on the most relevant formats based on their needs and environment. Transactions are 100% transparent and the available reports enable owners and vendors to see goods and services purchased.
Potential use for access control in homeless shelters
Our technology is also used for access control in designated areas. For events & venues, we have a lot of active use cases, where organizers require attendees to purchase a special ticket category to access let’s say a ‘VIP’ area. With Oveit, such information is stored and ready to be claimed with a simple tap of the hand thanks to an NFC wristband, card, or QR code. All entries are recorded in real-time and the available reports provide organizers with exact entry numbers and other attendee information requested in the registration form.
This feature might be a viable solution to keep track of the presence of homeless people in designated shelter facilities. If for instance an individual doesn’t check-in for three nights in a row, authorities can further look into what’s going on.
The first version of what we now call Oveit Pay was launched in 2018. It was a system that allowed event planners to create a small event economy and monetize transactions done in their event space. Simply put they invited third-party vendors to their events. The vendors would sell goods (mostly food and beverage) and the event planner would get a cut of what was sold. This helped increase the event’s revenue.
The increase in revenue was and still is very important for many, many event planners, especially festival owners. Without this economic concept the festivals we enjoy were either not possible or very hard to pull off. After the Coronavirus outbreak and the reshuffling of the live entertainment business, closed loop payments model will probably become the norm for a lot of the festivals that will survive.
How Oveit Pay came to be
We were very rudimentary at first. The idea was to use an RFID tag to store monetary value for digital wallets, inside an event. People would wear wristbands which can be either topped up or used to spend existent value. In the beginning we tested everything on laptops and RFID readers. We purchased a bunch of RFID readers and would connect them to the laptops. We found out that different readers were reading different values on the wristbands, due to how they were designed. This was issue no. 1.
Another issue we found was that this concept was very unstable if we were to ship it outside of our area of support. We’ve had a client asking for the technology to be used in the city of Medellin, in Columbia. As Narcos was airing on Netflix we were jokingly discussing the implications and a need for remote deployment. So we needed to change the way we ship the product, from a hardware perspective. Laptops and RFID readers were not the way to go. This was issue no. 2.
Issues 1 and 2 were both solved by switching our mindset from laptops to mobile devices (mostly Android smartphones). They were sturdy, easy to use and we could port our app to them. More importantly — they all had an NFC reading chip. What is an NFC chip? Glad you asked that. It’s a chip that reads some special kind of RFID tags that only work in proximity to the reader (NFC = Near Field Communication ).
When we thought we’d solved all of the issues a strange request came from an upcoming festival in the middle of a deserted island. The request was to run a closed loop payment network (checked) on a deserted island, on mobile devices (checked), without any internet connection (definitely not checked).
Making payments work offline
This was a tough one: our whole system was based on a cloud server processing sales and wallets, authentication and identities. There was no way that we were familiar with that could work in providing this closed loop without internet connectivity. So we started brainstorming.
At the time we witnessed protests against undemocratic changes to our country’s legislative structure. Protesters were organizing and communicating via mobile phones. When protests got bigger, radio communications were jammed. They had to resort to another way: using their Bluetooth connections to communicate via Firechat, a peer to peer messenger app. What Firechat did was turn each phone using it in a communication relay. Truth be told — it didn’t always work. But it showed us a direction we were going to head into.
We started working with 6 months left to deliver a product that would process payments on a deserted island, in the middle of the Danube river, where no Internet connection was stable. Did I mention the solution was going to be used by 5000 people?
We made it work with a distributed ledger approach that would move the data across mini-servers being run on sets of Raspberry Pi’s. We moved the data across an WiFi network in a secure way and basically created a mesh-network of servers and client devices that were running the apps on mobile phones.
The day of the festival came. We started late. Not only was there no internet but there was no stable electricity. It was raining. We had sand and dust everywhere. And I mean everywhere. One of the routers was fried due to unstable electricity and we had to drive 400 km to buy a replacement. Sony assisted in providing the mobile devices that were used as POS’s for vendors and top-up points.
Setting up the WiFi network was the hardest part. As electricity was unreliable, it was hard to test which part of the network was working or not. We basically created a network that beamed data from the riverwalk, where attendees would arrive and pretopup credit, to the island, covering a very, very large area, using just routers, access points, raspberry pi’s, mobile smartphones and our software.
It was fun and hard. Monitoring was unlike everything we’ve ever done. The music was running non-stop so there was always someone buying something. We were on constant alert.
Not perfectly, but it worked. People were amazed how they couldn’t reach their Instagram profiles but they would just tap their wristband and a payment was made. To a certain degree — it was magic. The perfect blend of technology, a bohemian decor and something emerging right in front of our eyes: an economy and a sort of edge-society. Cut off from the world, the cloud, the big city life, people were enjoying a private festival, with all of the convenience of what we now see as our core pillar in the society we live in: the economy.
When I say economy, don’t think of it as something the government would set up and carefully curate. Don’t think of complicated formulas, central banks and banks in general. Think of it as the basic human behavior of exchanging goods and services. Think of our natural tendency to collaborate with one another and the logistics that emerge from it. Think of what money used to be before we start calling it money: a convention between groups that they will exchange the value of their work through a shared medium.
A new perspective on the world
It took us a while to understand what we were creating. In the back of our mind, the idea started to taking shape as soon as we saw the people on the island interacting with one another. But it took another two years to understand how we fit into the world and how we can make it better.
As the festival was ending I had to hop on a long-haul flight to Hangzhou, China. We were selected to present what we just tested on the island in an International Stars contest.
At the moment I was going through a bit of an issue in my medical condition that made it hard to travel long trips but I chose to go on the trip. First off — I was in charge of product development so I had to present what we did and how we did it. Second — I’ve never been there so I was curious about the country and how the society was evolving.
It was amazing. We discovered many things. One of them was that our technology was not about events. It was, as financial technology usually is, about society and the way that people interact with one another and share value. We’ve seen how WeChat and AliPay changed the Chinese society for the better and how a new wave of different payments technologies were coming. We decided to focus on the opportunity to improve the world with our tech. We just didn’t know how an events company can play a role in the big financial world.
It was at the beginning of 2019 that we received an investment and moved our HQ to Austin, Texas. In just three months we went from an event company that was doing event payments to a company that was doing a new type of payments — As David Smith suggested, we called the technology Edge Payments — payments at the edge of the cloud.
You see — most of the payments go through a global network of banks, payment processors, gateways, card acquirers and so on. Basically your data travels two times across the world before you buy the ice cream in front of you, if you use your credit card. With cash it’s different. Hand over the note and that’s it.
What if there was a way to process payments where they happened (what we actually did with our tech) and how could this change the world?
We went down that path and we discovered that what we did was offer our customers the benefits of running their own economy. At a small scale, restricted to several geographic virtual areas but an economy nevertheless.
They could onboard vendors and buyers, tokenize and incentivize behavior, add fungible and non-fungible payment tokens. At their fingertips was the potential to create and manage small scale economies. Economies at the edge of the cloud. While still connected to the outside world and money transfers still regulated by traditional means, their mini-economies could become flourishing islands of creative behavior.
Economy as a Service
What we understood was that our technology could impact more than events. It could, theoretically, impact the economy in a way that blogs, social media and tweets and videos have impacted the media companies. It created the power for communities to gather around common ideas, concepts and a new type of influencers.
We understood that Oveit Pay, the closed-loop payments app for festivals, could do more. It could empower communities: from a hotel resort to a neighborhood. From an island in the Atlantic to a city in the US Midwest that has its value extracted via global trade routes, leaving it lifeless and without a future. From Europe to the North Americas and from Japan to South Africa, we understood that we are all basically the same and so are our communities and their needs.
We understood that while the globalized world has great benefits, the strength of our society still sits with communities and these communities need to be empowered to create and retain wealth in their local ecosystems.
This is what we now call “Economy as a Service”. Whether it is online (in a game) or offline (in a city, a festival or a neighborhood) our Economy as a Service tool can connect and help its members form a community.
The mission of Oveit Pay
Our mission is to empower communities to empower themselves. In an increasingly complex world where everything is fast moving and global wealth is generated at the edges and collected at the center, something has to change.
Oveit Pay v2 gathers in one app what we have learned about the world in the past years. It is a tool for communities across a vast spectrum, from cities to virtual communities in games, that want to empower themselves. To do this, we think they are missing a key component. Their own economy. A way to retain the value they create and shape the way it is formed by its members.
It is a complicated mission and it may not be the best way to go. But if we want to improve the way we live today and have a hope at a better future we need to improve on two of the most important inventions of our species: our social structures and the concept of money and how it’s being moved around, with an emphasis on “moved”.
The world is struggling with economic inequity. The global issues following the Coronavirus outbreak will only add to the existing economic issues. We think we can play a part in providing a better future to all human communities, with a tool that helps when help is needed.
This is the mission of Oveit Pay — to bring economic power to communities. To help communities emerge, take shape and become stronger. Make their members’ lives a little better and help them live more fulfilled lives, doing what they love.
For the last 37 years, event professionals from all over the world meet up in London for International Confex, Each February brands, agencies, event planners, and suppliers share their ideas on how to transform events into unforgettable experiences, making it UK’s leading attraction for event profs. In 2020 we will be back at Confex to discuss with event planners and entertainment venues managers how to kickstart their local economy. Yes, the event or venue can (and should) be seen as a local economy…inside a local community. Better said…the Economy as a Service software.
The economic impact festival and events have over small communities is critical – but so it’s the way event professionals manage payments inside (and outside!) of the site of the event. Because it’s time to push the event economy outside it’s geographical “borders”.
We’ll be over at L24C stand. We have some great gifts but also some new ideas on how to:
Increase your revenue.
Onboard new vendors.
Have detailed live reports. Data is the new oil and we believe that event industry professionals are not using this to its full potential.
Decrease fraud. And losses. And bad experiences.
Better use your staff. Team members should concentrate on what really matters, technology can take care of the repetitive tasks.
But most of all we want to talk about how the event’s economy can exceed the event’s area. How can the community benefit from it more, all while the event itself benefits from the community’s involvement? All using a mobile-first app that allows you to set up your own local economy.