Making payments is soon going to become even easier as you may not need a smartphone for the purpose. A basic feature phone will do.
ToneTag, a Bengaluru-based financial technology company, is set to introduce sound-based data transfer technology that had already been picked up by the likes of MasterCard and Infosys, one of the top three core banking solution providers in the world.
“ToneTag is a technology which is a communication protocol that will enable data transfer using sound waves,” Kumar Abhishek, CEO and co-founder, ToneTag, explained in an interview. “Where it becomes super interesting is that although we have several ways to transfer data like Bluetooth and Wi-fi and when we come to specific verticals like payments, we have NFC and QR, these are all hardware dependent.
“For example, both communicating devices need to have Bluetooth,” he said. “But for ToneTag, a software update can convert the sound around us and the sound that a mobile phone can generate and do a data transfer. There is no hardware dependency.”
Users in India may be familiar with the concept of sound-based communication through the Google Tez app, which allows UPI payments between two phones using sound-based communication.
However, ToneTag takes this concept a large step further by enabling this kind of communication even with devices that do not have a microphone or speaker.
In short, customers will be able to enter a shop that has no other electronic payment mechanism other than a card swiping machine and make payments even if they have left their wallet at home. As with any other QR-based payment system, they will also have the option to choose their mode of payment (UPI, debit card, etc) and approve of the payment before it is made.
“We have seven global patents wherein our software works with certain capacitors and resistors of the device to generate a wave pattern which is similar to sound waves and which could be understood by the customer’s phone,” he added.
He said this did not require a smartphone unlike other payment options such as QR or near field communication (NFC) since the software simply requires the microphone and speaker already present in the most basic of phones. This, he said, when combined with the fact that it requires no additional hardware on the merchant’s part, makes such a technology a very attractive proposition in rural India.
“Currently, we are working with few selected banks like Axis, ICICI, Yes Bank and are doing pilots with other large banks,” he said. Mr. Abhishek added.
“Very soon, any UPI app will support it. MasterCard is a partner, and so is Finacle, which is taking it to 72 countries,” he said.
“In the next quarter, we will cross 110 million consumers. What we did not do [in] the last few quarters was that we were not communicating to consumers that they have this capability on their phones,” Mr. Abhishek added.
“But in the following quarter, once we cross the 100 million consumers- mark, we think it is a good critical mass to start communicating, so you will begin to hear from our partner banks and us about what you can do with this technology,” he said.