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Digital payments won’t kill off credit cards

The digitalisation of payments may be accelerating at an eye-watering pace, but that hardly means the days of plastic cards are numbered, writes CHRIS WOOD of Nedbank

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The digitisation of payments is accelerating at an eye-watering pace, which, in all likelihood, means that the days of plastic cards may be numbered. But using this digitisation trend to justify a belief that credit cards, as such, will not be around for much longer is a somewhat misguided approach. One that demonstrates a misunderstanding of what credit cards actually are, and why they remain one of the most popular ways of transacting across the world. In fact, a 2018 TransUnion Industry Insights report revealed that the popularity of credit cards as a payment mechanism is still rising, with a 2.6% increase in the number of credit card accounts between the first quarter of 2017 and the first quarter of 2018.

Against that backdrop, it’s very unlikely that the physical plastic form of today’s credit cards will be making an exit from wallets and purses around the world anytime soon. Apart from the convenience and security of having a physical card to pay with, it still gives most consumers a sense of comfort in that it is a tangible representation of the money they have. In the past, cheques fulfilled this role for many people, but now that they are effectively dead and buried, and people’s interactions with cash is typically very fleeting, the plastic card is the only long-term, physical representation that people have of their relationship with their money.

So, while digitised credit payment methods offer even more convenience and transactional flexibility, the actual card is something that can be physically handled. Much like the fears of e-readers causing the demise of printed books are yet to be realised, it is going to take a significant amount of time for consumers to get comfortable with the fact that they don’t need a piece of plastic to tap, swipe, or insert into a point of sale machine to make a purchase.

Then there’s also the merchant part of the equation. A wholesale shift away from the use of physical plastic requires the full buy-in of retailers and service providers which, in turn, will require a significant mindset shift from the cashiers who are manning the register and accepting payments. Perhaps understandably, therefore, there is a measure of reluctance by merchants, many of who have only recently come to grips with remote POS devices, to throw their weight behind a move to cardless digital payment methods.

Of course, this relationship that people have with their physical credit cards is steadily changing, particularly amongst younger consumers. Most of these new generation consumers have also grown up with mobile technology as a core part of their lives, meaning that they are entirely comfortable using an app on their cellphone to pay for a purchase. In fact, they are likely to feel more at ease with digital, or virtual, payment methods than they are with physical ones like cash and cards.  A good example of these changing consumer dynamics can be seen in the speed with which the majority of, predominantly young, people have embraced contactless card payments, like tap to pay. These types of advances in payments that require little to no interaction with payment devices will undoubtedly pave the way for entirely cardless, mobile technology enabled transactions sometime in the future.

Ultimately, a fast-growing need for mobility and flexibility of payments will drive the evolution of credit payment transactions and, in all likelihood, lead to the eventual disappearance of plastic cards entirely. When that day might come is, of course, anyone’s guess. But irrespective of if, or when, plastic credit cards do become obsolete, the onus remains firmly on financial institutions to understand that the concept of credit cards has very little to do with the actual plastic card, and everything to do with the customer need for convenient, secure and instant payment mechanisms.

For us at Nedbank, this understanding has always underpinned the design and delivery of all our payments channels. While cards are a physical manifestation of one of the many transactional methods we offer our clients, our goal is to ensure that consumers have access to a vast and diverse payments ecosystem wherever they are in the world, and from which they can select the methods that best suit their unique needs and preferences.

So, no matter what form credit cards take in the future, most people will still always require credit in one form or another to meet their needs – the primary one being the need to be able to make payments wherever they are, whenever they need to, secure in the knowledge that their bank is there to enable and support the transaction.

As such, Nedbank cards are provided on a robust, secure, and proven payments infrastructure to facilitate trusted and convenient payments. Whether these payments are made using a piece of plastic, a cellphone, a digital payment platform like Nedbank scan to pay or some other piece of futuristic technology, is neither here nor there. All that matters is that our customers know that we are always there for them and they can rely on us to meet their payment needs.

Ultimately, that’s all that any person making a payment desires. And for the financial institution that can fully understand that, and innovate to deliver solutions that meet, and exceed, the payment expectations of consumers, the evolution of credit cards and payments is not a scary prospect, but rather a very exciting opportunity to deliver for their clients, enhance their brand and expand their success.

Cars

Mercedes brings older models to the connected world

The Mercedes Me Adapter is designed to bring older Mercedes Benz models into the connected world, allowing one to keep a close eye on the car via a smartphone. SEAN BACHER installs a unit

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In this day and age, just about any device, from speakers to TVs to alarm systems, can be connected and controlled via a smartphone.

In keeping with this trend, Daimler Chrysler has launched a Mercedes Me Adapter – a system designed to connect your car to your phone.

The Mercedes Me Adapter comprises a hardware and software component. The hardware is an adapter that is no bigger than a match box and plugs into the OBD2 diagnostics socket under the car’s steering wheel column. 

The software component is the Mercedes Me app, which can be downloaded for Android and iOS devices. (See downloading instructions at the end of the review.)

Setting up

Before you can start using the Mercedes Me Adapter, you need to download the app and begin the registration process. This includes setting up an account, inputting the vehicle’s VIN number, the year it was manufactured and the model name – among many other details. This information is sent to Daimler Chrysler. It is advisable to get this done before heading off to Mercedes to have the adapter installed, as it takes quite some time getting all the details in.

The next step is locating your nearest Merc dealer to get the adapter installed. You have to produce the registration papers and a copy of your ID – something Mercedes neglects to mention on its website, or anywhere else, for that matter.

What it does

The Mercedes Me Adapter is designed to show the car’s vital statistics on your mobile device. On the home screen, information like parking time, odometer reading and fuel level is displayed.

Below that is information about your most recent journeys, such as the distance, time taken, departure address and destination address. Your driving style is also indicated in percentage – taking into account acceleration, braking and coasting.

A Start Cockpit button displayed on the home screen includes a range of widgets offering additional information, including where your car is parked – right down to the address – as well as battery voltage, total driving time, distance and driver score since the adapter was installed. A variety of other widgets can be added to the screen, allowing for complete customisation.

Many users have have pointed out that that there is no real point to the adapter. However it does offer benefits. Firstly, your trips can be organised into personal and business categories and then exported into a spreadsheet for tax purposes. Secondly, you can keep a very close eye on your fuel consumption, as it automatically measures how many litres you put in each time you visit the garage and the cost (the cost per litre must be entered manually so it can work out total refuelling costs). This is also quite beneficial in terms of working out how much fuel you go through, without keeping all the pesky slips when it comes to claiming at the end of the month.

Probably the most important benefit is that it monitors the engine, electrical, transmission and gearbox, sending notifications as soon as any faults are detected. A perfect example was encountered on a recent trip I made to Pretoria. Upon arriving, I received a notification that I needed to check my engine, with the Mercedes roadside assist number blinking and ready for me to dial.

The notification did not even show up on the actual fault detection system, except for the faint glow of the orange engine light, which I would never have noticed in the bright light. I immediately took it Mercedes and they diagnosed it as an intermittent thermostat error, which they said is fine for now but that I have to keep an eye on the engine temperature.

Conclusion

The convenience of easily being able to export mileage for tax purposes and refuelling stops as well as being able to locate your car at anytime should be more than enough to qualify it as a pretty useful companion for your car.

Add to this the fact that it is completely free from Mercedes, and that makes it an absolute no-brainer. Should you not like it, simply unplug the adapter and uninstall the app. The only thing lost is half an hour while the Mercedes technician sets it up, ensures it is working and gives you a crash course on how to operate the app.

The adapter will only work in Mercedes Benz models from 2002 onwards. No warranties are lost, as the adapter does not increase the car’s performance and is a genuine Mercedes part.

2017 models and above do not need the adapter as everything is installed when the car is manufactured. All one needs to do is install the app and pair it with the car.

Get the Mercedes me iOS app here

Get the Mercedes Me Android app here

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Durban FilmMart wants African documentary projects

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Submissions for documentary and feature film projects in development for the Durban FilmMart  (DFM) close next week on 31 January 2020. The organisers are making a special call-out to documentary filmmakers who have projects to submit.

“We invite documentary filmmakers to submit their projects no matter how early in its development it is, so long as it has a producer and director attached to it,” says Don Edkins well-known documentary filmmaker and the DFM’s documentary film mentor. “The DFM is a brilliant way in which filmmakers are able to galvanize interest in their ideas, get people excited about being involved or helping them develop the project. It may be that the project could then be taken to its next level by being invited to another market for further development, or find financing through the pitches. The possibilities are endless.”

The DFM, which takes place from 17 to 20 July 2020, will host 10 documentary and 10 feature projects at its co-production and finance forum. The producer, director or writer on the project must be an African citizen and can either be living on the continent or in the Diaspora.

‘Documentary filim has over the last years really come into its own,” enthuses Edkins. “We see how the genre has evolved from its more information-driven newsreel-style to a narrative or ‘story-driven’ approach,” he says. “It makes the film genre so much more accessible for its audience, drawing them in and engaging them, yet still making strong statements or creating its requisite impact.”

Countless film projects have gone from a simple concept and idea at the Durban FilmMart to the big screen over the 11 years.

Some examples include the 2011 project Buddha in Africa directed by Nicole Schafer (SA) which premiered at HotDocs 2019, and had its SA premiere at Encounters and won Best SA Documentary at DIFF making it eligible for consideration for an Oscar nomination.  2014 projects which made it to the big screen include Kula – a Memory in 3 Acts directed by Inadelso Cossa (Mozambique), The Colonel’s Stray Dogs directed by Khali Shamis (SA), The Sound of Masks directed by Sara Gouveia (SA/Mozambique), Alison directed by Uga Carlini (SA). The 2015 alumni projects which were completed include Amal directed by Mohamed Siam (Egypt), Not in my Neighbourhood directed by Kurt Orderson (SA), The Giant is Falling (working title After Marikana) directed by Rehad Desai (SA) had its international premiere at IDFA. The 2016 project The Letter directed by Maia von Lekow and Chris King (Kenya) premiered at IDFA in 2019 and also from that year, Working Womxn directed by Shanelle Jewnarain (SA) is in production.

“There are plenty more examples of films that have pushed through from their initial concepts, into production and then onto distribution and or screening,” says Edkins. “The documentary film community in Africa is still small and working with the DFM we try to find new talent constantly and work with the industry to hold space for the documentary. I know there are highly creative and talented people out there who have brilliant ideas, and I would like to encourage them to submit these for consideration for this year’s edition.”

To submit a project go to http://www.durbanfilmmart.co.za/ProjectSubmissions

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