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Your Generator will soon be able to order and pay for diesel. Welcome to the Bank of Things

Let’s forget the fuel scarcity for a minute and imagine a world where generators are smart enough to know when diesel is running low and automatically orders diesel for delivery.  The generator connects to the owner’s Bank account for making payment and then sends a calendar invite to the owner so he can be home to take delivery.  No queues, no stress, no hassle. Wouldn’t that be nice?

This is the vision of the Internet of Things (IoT) where everyday physical objects will be connected to the Internet and will be able to identify themselves to other devices. This is a world where your fridge, cooker and even your furniture can connect to the Internet and perform smart useful functions to make your life easier.

So what is the Bank of Things (BoT)?  Simply put, it is when everyday physical objects can interact with Banks to meet customers at the point of need.  Like the example of a generator connecting a customer’s Bank account to order diesel so the owner never runs out of diesel.

In the whitepaper on the Bank of Things, Accenture predicts that there already are more than 10 billion connected devices, and another 10-20 billion expected to be connected in the next decade.  This number of connected devices provides many opportunities for using everyday objects to make our lives easier.

For example, a car can automatically check the e-tag balance whenever it passes the e-tag lane on the Lekki tollgate.  If the balance is low, an alert will show up on the car’s display dashboard prompting the driver to confirm payment to LCC. Once the driver confirms by tapping a button on the dashboard, the car connects to the Bank to make payment. The driver never need be caught unawares at the e-tag lane again. Just one less thing to worry about in our ever busy lives.

Another scenario could be after a long day at work, you settle down in front of the TV to eat dinner and watch a premier league game only to find out that your DSTV subscription has expired.  Very frustrating indeed but instead of condemning yourself to an evening of CCTV news, you simply pick up your remote control, use the smart function on your TV to navigate to your Bank’s TV App and make the necessary payment. Or better still, your TV can send an alert to your smart watch days before your subscription expires and you tap a button on the watch to confirm that payment should be made to DSTV immediately.

There is a whole universe out there of the possible banking innovations that can leverage connected everyday objects to anticipate customer needs and provide relevant and timely solutions.  The advantages are certainly numerous for the customers but what are the incentives for Banks to invest in such innovations?

Banks that can create a seamless, consistent experience across multiple channels to deliver a superior customer experience will be rewarded with enhanced revenue opportunities.  After all, customers are already accustomed to paying a slight premium for the convenience and speed of using the Internet and Mobile Banking.

To create these new opportunities in the marketplace, Banks need to focus on 3 core areas

  1. Mobile Money as an e-Wallet – Banks need to start positioning their Mobile Money platforms as a prepay e-wallet for taking advantage of BoT products.  Customers will have more confidence to use BoT products if the funds come out of a prepaid electronic wallet as opposed to directly from their bank account.  This is key especially in scenarios where solutions can anticipate customer needs and automatically make payments before the need arises.  Like our example of a generator automatically ordering and paying for diesel just before the diesel runs out.  Also, because Mobile Money platforms already have payment modules, it makes it perfect for these innovative solutions than require payments.
  2. Explore Partnerships – BoT solutions will usually involve channels and services that are not directly under the control of Banks so partnerships are key for the success of this new business model.  Partnerships with telecom companies, technology firms, device manufacturers and other institutions are key to making this work.
  3. Data Cleansing – Accurate customer data is key for providing a truly complete, personalized and integrated experience to the customer.  A simple example is when a smart television uses the customer’s phone number to get the subscription status from DSTV and then uses the same number to authorize payment from the customer’s e-wallet.  If there is a mismatch between the numbers saved on the Bank’s database and DSTV, the whole process fails.  Therefore Banks need to invest time in validating and cleaning their customer data to ensure they have the right foundation to launch BoT solutions.

While it may seem that some of these concepts are light years away, the technology to achieve this vision is already in existence.   We are already seeing the emergence of smart cars, watches, devices, and televisions so all it takes is the will and vision to bring these components together into new business models.

So are we going to see smart generators that can automatically order diesel anytime soon?  Yes, we do believe that vision will be a reality in the next 2 years.

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