Soundwaves technology coming to Africa

The drive to simplify payments with the use of sound technology could be heading to Africa as ToneTag— an Indian technology firm behind this innovation— plans to spread its tentacles to the mother continent.

With the technology having demonstrated its utility in India— a country with a population of over a billion people— ToneTag is confident this innovative product will enjoy similar success in Africa where many countries share common attributes with India.

Excursion gaining momentum

Africa Blockchain Media reached out to a ToneTag team member to learn more about this planned excursion into Africa. Saptarshi Sashi is Assistant Vice President (AVP) in charge of Global Business Expansion at ToneTag and we asked him about the company’s Africa push.

Sashi singled out one country where there has been progress although he stressed that they were working to get into many more countries.

“We are already working with companies in Zimbabwe as well as in the majority of countries across the African continent with numerous projects at different stages of progress,” said Sashi.

Sashi also revealed that the door is still open for new partnerships, particularly with companies in the financial services sector.

“We want to partner with banks across Africa and build totally offline solutions.

With ToneTag’s innovation, 100% offline digital payments are very much possible as the video link below demonstrates

ToneTag already operates this technology in South East Asian countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore as well as Middle East states such as the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

Operations in these countries proves that there is still a place for those using what maybe seen as antiquated technology or where internet access is still a challenge.

Sound trumps the blockchain

ToneTag’s Soundwaves technology relies on sound rather than the internet to initiate and close payments. This makes the technology better placed to attack the long standing challenge of financial exclusion and that of limited access to payment platforms.  

An estimated 1.7 billion of the world’s adult population are unbanked and the onus to trim down this figure has been on the door financial institutions for many years. However, after decades of limited progress, technology companies appear to have seized the initiative from recalcitrant banks.

Technology companies and social media giants have released different financial technology (fintech) products that are now reshaping the global financial landscape. Financial services are more widely available in remote places than any-time before because of innovation applications created by tech firms.

Yet, out of all these fintechs, it is the blockchain which is consistently touted as the best innovation to deal with this financial exclusion problem. Nevertheless, this fintech can only succeed where there is a guaranteed and uninterrupted internet access.

Without these it will be impossible to see all the potential benefits of the Blockchain.

So while mobile network operators (MNOs) have done well to improve internet accessibility, this progress remains limited to mainly urban population centres. Remote areas still struggle to receive ongoing and reliable internet access and it is here where this soundwaves technology can become a feasible alternative.

Indeed, soundwaves technology complements the Blockchain very well, yet it can still be effective as a standalone technology because it relies on sound.

This particularly technology enables the seamless and contactless payments by facilitating the transfer of information through sounds.

This technology only needs a phone to possess the ability to make or record sounds, and it can be used to transfer previous transactional history as well as payment confirmation data instantly. Through this technology, users at the Point of Sale (PoS) would be able to transact safely and securely.

Sound functionality comes as a standard feature on all mobile phones including on non-Smartphone mobile handsets that are still popular in some countries. Nokia, Itel and Samsung are some of the common brand names of non-Smartphones that are presently popular.

Indeed, the rest of the world is moving away from these phones and towards Smartphones. At the moment, it may seem that many of the so-called Smartphones circulating are counterfeits.

Counterfeit Smartphones are often of inferior quality when compared to genuine products. A short battery standby time and an even shorter battery life are some of the common peculiarities of such phones.

Those that can afford usually purchase a second handset just so they can stay in touch. Such mobile handsets can perform all other key functions such as receiving calls or sending SMS messages, without the need for net access.

In countries like Zimbabwe, where mobile money is the most widely used payment method for micropayments, such handsets come in quite handy.

Users with such handsets are rarely inconvenienced with flat batteries or dropped calls.

Now with ToneTag’s Soundwaves technology, such handsets or feature phones as they are also known, it is possible for users to make payments or to interact with an online payment platform via sound.

Sound technology enables more functions

ToneTag says it has spent more than 6 years of research and development building and perfecting ways of dealing with this challenge of handsets that are way behind current technologies.

Additionally, Sashi says that their innovative technology— just like the Blockchain—cannot be hacked because it comes with ‘three levels’ of security.

In the meantime, a digital payment solution is just one of the many that ToneTag can enable using internet-less phones. Agency banking solutions such as cash-In/Out, insurance at point of purchase or payment at point of sale (POS) terminals using feature phones are other interesting solutions that can be offered.

Sashi gives an example of a truck driver attendance solution that ToneTag has worked on as one of its success stories.