The Rise of Connected Fintech Hardware

Right now in the United Kingdom there’s a bit of a banking revolution going on — the so-called “challenger banks” are not just mobile…

Alasdair Allan
2 years ago

Right now in the United Kingdom there’s a bit of a banking revolution going on — the so-called “challenger banks” are not just mobile first, but mobile only. Without branches, or the creaking legacy technology stacks of the traditional retail banks, these banks live on your smartphone rather than on main street.

Alongside this is the Open Banking initiative, where the nine biggest UK banks have been forced to allow direct access to their customer data down to the level of individual transactions.

So with the challenger banks eating their own dog food, and their developer API, as they build out their mobile applications, and the bigger retail banks being forced to offer similar access via the Open Banking API, things are starting to get interesting. While most of the third-party applications getting built are the expected ‘money management’ applications, there have been some interesting projects built around the new interfaces.

It all started with a pig.

The idea that physical hardware could be integrated with online banking to make things more tangible is an interesting one. As we move far more towards a society that doesn’t use physical cash, embedding our digital money into the environment—making our money tangible once again as part of our environment and associated with our smart objects—becomes important.

Although sometimes it’s the simplest ideas might be the most useful, for instance a simple meter allowing you to monitor your account balance. After all one piece of information that’s pretty important to just about everyone, is “…how much of my salary is still in my bank account?”

However as the backend APIs develop to expose new concepts, like Monzo’s ‘pots’ for keeping tabs on your savings, tracking these virtual objects becomes more complex. Right now most people resort to screens to present complex information, which is a perfectly valid response to increasing complexity.

Yet while most of today’s internet connected smart objects are blatantly creations of technology, connected APIs and machine learning can be utilized to develop interfaces where user interaction can be more natural.

Making use of sound and visual clues means that we can design interfaces that appear ‘magical’ to the user, embedding smart objects more naturally into the environment. Like the pig that started all of this, there’s more to interfaces than screens.

Of course some of the ideas are crazier than others. While Amazon may be experimenting with package delivery by drone here in the United Kingdom, I’m not sure “credit card by drone” will ever take off.

Alasdair Allan
Scientist, author, hacker, maker, and journalist. Building, breaking, and writing. For hire. You can reach me at 📫 alasdair@babilim.co.uk.
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