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SA going cashless?

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In a country where 10.5 million people receive their SASSA grants via a cashless system and 70% of the population have accounts at financial institutions, is cash here to stay, asks CHAD FICHARDT, independent tech and finance communications specialist.

The way the world transacts is in transition. Physical cash and cards are morphing into a hybrid of mobile, digital and perhaps even crypto. This brings to the fore exciting commercial opportunity and challenge. Mostly, it offers the chance of financial inclusion.

At the recent Cashless Payments Summit, experts attempted to decipher where this transition is headed and what it means for South Africans.

The idea of going cashless, or replacing cash with digital money – largely enabled through seamless payment on our mobile devices – is being propelled into reality by governments and corporations who see the benefits.

In developed markets mobile payments are leapfrogging card and are well on their way to replacing cash. Singapore, the Netherlands, Sweden and France see almost 60% cashless transactions, according to figures from Mastercard.

The Central Bank of Nigeria is starting to drive ‘cashless’ because it sees the economic benefit. “Going cashless inevitably means you know more about your customers and trade starts to increase. Additionally, where relevant, the more you know about your customer the more you are willing to lend money, which, when done responsibly, leads to further capital available for them to invest and for the economy to grow,” says Anton Gaylard from Crossfin, a local technology investment company.

Cashless transactions are traceable and the amount of information available relating to a particular transaction gives rise to more opportunies for data management and personalisation. In the US, retailers are seeing a 10% uptake in sales from knowing your customer better.

According to Karen Nadasen, PayU South Africa CEO, getting cashless right will enable other trends, particularly in and around eCommerce. “eCommerce is often a barometer for how payment technology is progressing. It gives you an idea of where trust levels are at. As we see eCommerce steadily grow and give rise to better data collection and usage, we see richer opportunities to solve real problems like financial exclusion,” says Nadasen.

However, cash still prevails at the low end of the market. Commenting on the ‘stickiness’ of physical cash, the Centre for Financial Regulation and Inclusion’s Barry Cooper, observes that encashment, or the ability to access cash from other forms of money, will drive digital money uptake.

“You actually need more cash to take the step into digital. The current digital ecosystem is concentrated around economically active areas only and cash reticulation (the development of an accessible network) remains limited. Whereas cash is perceived to be free and universal. This leads to a disproportionate gravity towards the cash economy,” says Cooper.

It is evident that access to platforms, improved convenience and trust hold the key. From a technology provider perspective it’s all about driving the costs down. Interestingly, Cooper points out that the informal digital environment is sophisticated, more trusted than banks in informal markets and highly effective. Increasing trust in digital channels relies heavily on the reliability of the technology and the points of interaction with the real economy. This is something the informal market is getting right, according to Cooper.

At the other end of the spectrum, cashless technology is speeding things up at the point of sale for retailers. Speed through the checkout affects the bottom line directly, not to mention the added benefit of less queuing time and happier customers.

NFC technology, which allows you to tap your card for payment, has halved the time it takes to complete a traditional card payment in retail and reduced by a third the time it takes to do a traditional cash payment.

With mobile payments increasing at 23% year on year in South Africa, all eyes will be on eCommerce. “There is so much progress being made in the fintech and, to a lesser degree, eCommerce space at the moment that all point to a further penetration into cashless,” adds Nadasen. “Payment technology is going to have to move further in the background, or frictionless for mass uptake of cashless to be realised.”

It is peculiar that in a country where 10.5 million people receive their SASSA grants via a cashless system and roughly 70% of the population have accounts at financial institutions, that cash appears to be here to stay, for now.

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CES: So long, and thanks for all the beer!

Last week, the Las Vegas expo showed off its fun side with state-of-the-art technologies for enjoying beer, writes BRYAN TURNER

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From craft beer-making machines to robots that pour beer, CES had more beer than usual in Las Vegas last week. And even free beer if you found the right stand. Stampede’s saloon-style booth offered beer to visitors who tried out its latest drones, virtual reality, and other gaming products. No beer tech, though.

Here are some of the beer technologies that stood out:

LG HomeBrew – Craft beer made at home

LG’s HomeBrew craft beer-making machine,  debuted at CES 2019, brings the brewing process home thanks to single-use capsules,  a self-cleaning feature, and an algorithm optimised for fermentation. 

Like a Nespresso coffee machine, the beer maker uses capsules, which contain malt, yeast, hop oil and flavouring. At the press of a button, LG HomeBrew automates the whole procedure from fermentation and carbonation to ageing. A companion app lets users check HomeBrew’s status at any time during the process, from their handsets.

The beer machine not only offers a simple way to make craft beer, but also enhances the quality of beer it makes. The fermentation algorithm intelligently controls the fermenting process with precise temperature and pressure control. It automatically sanitises itself, using nothing more than hot water, ensuring everything is hygienically clean for the next batch.

Designed with discerning beer lovers in mind, HomeBrew allows for in-home production of batches of more than 4 litres of beer in a variety of styles. The following five distinctive, flavoured beers are available now: 

  • Hoppy American IPA
  • Golden American Pale Ale
  • Full-bodied English Stout
  • Zesty Belgian-style Witbier
  • Dry Czech Pilsner

The only catch? It takes about two weeks to make, depending on the beer type.

“LG HomeBrew is the culmination of years of home appliance and water purification technologies that we’ve developed over the decades,” said Dan Song, president of LG Electronics Home Appliance & Air Solutions Company. “Homebrewing has grown at an explosive pace, but there are still many beer lovers who haven’t taken the jump because of the barriers to entry, like complexity, and these are the consumers we think will be attracted to LG HomeBrew.”

Click here to read about the party speaker that holds beer and robots that pour beer.

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CES: Alienware gets Legend-ary

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At CES in Las Vegas last week, Dell’s Alienware released a family of high-end, thin, light, and affordable machines for both amateur and professional gamers – and a new identity.

Alienware marked CES 2019 as a brand milestone with the debut of a new design identity, Alienware Legend. It aims to set a new bar of excellence for what gamers want most – performance and function. Alienware says it evaluated multiple concepts and chose one that was the biggest and boldest departure from its current look.

Alienware Legend, says the company, stays true to the brand’s core design tenets, taking cues from its deep roots in sci-fi culture and its early industrial designs, to distinguish the brand from the rest of the industry. The new Legend design is optimised with cutting-edge thermal cooling technology to achieve and sustain overclocking power, improved AlienFX lighting, and ultra-thin screen borders. It also unveiled a new “three-knuckle hinge” design that reduces the overall dimension while creating a stronger assembly, all combining to yield a better gaming experience.

“We’re excited to come to this year’s CES with some truly groundbreaking products, next-gen software and strategic partnerships that will bring more people to experience PC gaming and advance the industry,” said Frank Azor, vice president and general manager of Alienware. “The legend design answers the call for more and better from our gaming community, and the new G Series laptops will make PC gaming even more accessible to those looking for high-performance gaming at a cost they can appreciate.”

Click here to read about Alienware Legend in action with the Area-51m and m-series laptops

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