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Small merchants now take MasterPass via phones

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Shoppers can now use MasterPass, the digital commerce platform from MasterCard, to pay for in-store or face-to-face purchases at over 2,000 iKhokha retailers and service providers in South Africa using their smartphones or tablets.|Shoppers can now use MasterPass, the digital commerce platform from MasterCard, to pay for in-store or face-to-face purchases at over 2,000 iKhokha retailers and service providers in South Africa using their smartphones or tablets.

This follows a collaboration announced by MasterCard and mobile commerce provider, iKhokha, which sees MasterPass’ digital checkout services integrated into iKhokha’s mobile payment application used by a wide range of small, medium and mobile enterprises including hair and beauty salons, tourism businesses, health care practitioners, and professionals like lawyers.

“MasterPass is a major step forward in the evolution of payments. As the way we shop changes, the way we tap, click and make a payment needs to evolve to best fit our needs and lifestyles wherever we are and from whichever connected device we choose,” says Ann Cairns, President for International Markets, MasterCard.

“Our association with iKhokha extends MasterPass’ acceptance beyond online stores into the physical retail world, enabling South Africans to make fast, seamless and secure digital payments online, in-app and now in-store too using any connected device.”

Since its launch in South Africa in July 2014, MasterPass has grown its acceptance network, with consumers able to pay using the digital wallet at more than 370 South African merchants including Takealot.com, Flysaa.com (South African Airways), Le Creuset, Flymango.com (Mango Airlines) and www.netflorist.co.za as well as over 250,000 merchants internationally.

“This positive uptake by merchants and consumers is indicative that digital payments are growing in popularity,” says Cairns. “And today, we are excited to offer MasterPass users even more places to pay digitally at iKhokha retailers and service providers.”

When shoppers choose to pay iKhokha retailers using MasterPass, they simply open the MasterPass app on their mobile device, and scan the unique QR code that is generated on the iKhokha retailer’s smart device. After shoppers enter their bank PIN number or 3DSecure code and CVV/CVC number on their own device, the transaction is complete.

Unlike other similar solutions, each MasterPass transaction is classified as an Authenticated Mobile Transaction by South African banks, ensuring that consumers enjoy the highest protection from fraudsters. Anyone can use the Standard Bank and Nedbank MasterPass apps – even non-Standard Bank and non-Nedbank cardholders. MasterPass also accepts selected PIN-based debit cards such as Maestro, enabling millions of South Africans to make omni-channel payments.

For merchants, MasterPass provides a secure, quick and easy way to checkout their customers, which can lead to increased spending and more frequent purchases. It also opens new business opportunities and enables merchants to potentially increase their sales to consumers in 28 other countries where MasterPass is available including Australia, Canada, China, United Kingdom and the United States.

“What excites us is that through our collaboration with MasterCard and MasterPass we are helping our merchants walk the journey from cash to card to digital acceptance. If a customer wants to pay with it, our iKhokha merchants need to be able to accept it, and we need to make that process frictionless for both parties. Providing Small and Medium Enterprises with cash recording capabilities, as well as digital and physical card payment acceptance, in one mobile app is to our knowledge an African first,” says Matt Putman, managing director at iKhokha.

One such retailer is Ruth Mafupa, owner of Natural Moisture, a natural hair and beauty enterprise that manufactures products and then sells them wholesale to salons and directly to consumers online and from her store in Johannesburg. She accepts card payments on an iKhokha mobile point of sale device connected to her smart phone, as well as online and now in-store digital MasterPass payments using the iKhokha app.

“Many of my customers spend more with me now that they can swipe their cards on my iKhokha device. They aren’t restricted to the cash in their purses, which is extremely unsafe to carry,” says Mafupa. “Of course, they all have cell phones and although they sometimes leave their purses at home, they are never without their phones. For this reason, I’ve also started asking my customers to download the MasterPass app to encourage additional digital payment behaviour.”

The MasterPass app and iKhokha merchant app are both available from the iTunes and Google Play stores.

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Smart home arrives in SA

The smart home is no longer a distant vision confined to advanced economies, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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The smart home is a wonderful vision for controlling every aspect of one’s living environment via remote control, apps and sensors. But, because it is both complex and expensive, there has been little appetite for it in South Africa.

The two main routes for smart home installation are both fraught with peril – financial and technical.

The first is to call on a specialist installation company. Surprisingly, there are many in South Africa. Google “smart home” +”South Africa”, and thousands of results appear. The problem is that, because the industry is so new, few have built up solid track records and reputations. Costs vary wildly, few standards exist, and the cost of after-sales service will turn out to be more important than the upfront price.

The second route is to assemble the components of a smart home, and attempt self-installation. For the non-technical, this is often a non-starter. Not only does one need a fairly good knowledge of Wi-Fi configuration, but also a broad understanding of the Internet of Things (IoT) – the ability for devices to sense their environment, connect to each other, and share information.

The good news, though, is that it is getting easier and more cost effective all the time.

My first efforts in this direction started a few years ago with finding smart plugs on Amazon.com. These are power adaptors that turn regular sockets into “smart sockets” by adding Wi-Fi and an on-off switch, among other. A smart lightbulb was sourced from Gearbest in China. At the time, these were the cheapest and most basic elements for a starter smart home environment.

Via a smartphone app, the light could be switched on from the other side of the world. It sounds trivial and silly, but on such basic functions the future is slowly built.

Fast forward a year or two, and these components are available from hundreds of outlets, they have plummeted in cost, and the range of options is bewildering. That, of course, makes the quest even more bewildering. Who can be trusted for quality, fulfilment and after-sales support? Which products will be obsolete in the next year or two as technology advances even more rapidly?

These are some of the challenges that a leading South African technology distributor, Syntech, decided to address in adding smart home products to its portfolio. It selected LifeSmart, a global brand with proven expertise in both IoT and smart home products.

Equally significantly, LifeSmart combines IoT with artificial intelligence and machine learning, meaning that the devices “learn” the best ways of connecting, sharing and integrating new elements. Because they all fall under the same brand, they are designed to integrate with the LifeSmart app, which is available for Android and iOS phones, as well as Android TV.

Click here to read about how LifeSmart makes installing smart home devices easier.

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Matrics must prepare for AI

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students writing a test

By Vian Chinner, CEO and founder of Xineoh.

Many in the matric class of 2018 are currently weighing up their options for the future. With the country’s high unemployment rate casting a shadow on their opportunities, these future jobseekers have been encouraged to look into which skills are required by the market, tailoring their occupational training to align with demand and thereby improving their chances of finding a job, writes Vian Chinner – a South African innovator, data scientist and CEO of the machine learning company specialising in consumer behaviour prediction, Xineoh.

With rapid innovation and development in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), all careers – including high-demand professions like engineers, teachers and electricians – will look significantly different in the years to come.

Notably, the third wave of internet connectivity, whereby our physical world begins to merge with that of the internet, is upon us. This is evident in how widespread AI is being implemented across industries as well as in our homes with the use of automation solutions and bots like Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. So much data is collected from the physical world every day and AI makes sense of it all.

Not only do new industries related to technology like AI open new career paths, such as those specialising in data science, but it will also modify those which already exist. 

So, what should matriculants be considering when deciding what route to take?

For highly academic individuals, who are exceptionally strong in mathematics, data science is definitely the way to go. There is, and will continue to be, massive demand internationally as well as locally, with Element-AI noting that there are only between 0 and 100 data scientists in South Africa, with the true number being closer to 0.

In terms of getting a foot in the door to become a successful data scientist, practical experience, working with an AI-focused business, is essential. Students should consider getting an internship while they are studying or going straight into an internship, learning on the job and taking specialist online courses from institutions like Stanford University and MIT as they go.

This career path is, however, limited to the highly academic and mathematically gifted, but the technology is inevitably going to overlap with all other professions and so, those who are looking to begin their careers should take note of which skills will be in demand in future, versus which will be made redundant by AI.

In the next few years, technicians who are able to install and maintain new technology will be highly sought after. On the other hand, many entry level jobs will likely be taken care of by AI – from the slicing and dicing currently done by assistant chefs, to the laying of bricks by labourers in the building sector.

As a rule, students should be looking at the skills required for the job one step up from an entry level position and working towards developing these. Those training to be journalists, for instance, should work towards the skill level of an editor and a bookkeeping trainee, the role of financial consultant.

This also means that new workforce entrants should be prepared to walk into a more demanding role, with more responsibility, than perhaps previously anticipated and that the country’s education and training system should adapt to the shift in required skills.

The matric classes of 2018 have completed their schooling in the information age and we should be equipping them, and future generations, for the future market – AI is central to this.

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