The rustic setting at this year’s Oppikoppi 2011 Unknown Brother Music Festival will strike a harmonious chord with a technological payment innovation. This festival (which is scheduled to be held during the first weekend of August, will showcase Near Field Communication (NFC) technology. The system is also known as tap n go payments. It’s a first time that such a system will be used in South Africa.
This is made possible thanks to a collaboration between Standard Bank’s innovation unit Beyond Payments and Oppikoppi organisers Hilltop Live. There will be no need for festival goers or merchants to keep track of notes and coins during the 3 days of music, camping and general mayhem. At Oppikoppi 2011 Unknown Payments for beer, boerie rolls and all other food and drinks can be made using the Oppikoppi tap n go card (which will be issued free of charge to every visitor).
Stations will be set up throughout the entertainment area. Visitors will be able to preload money onto their Oppikoppi cards by using their cash, credit, debit cards or mimoney (Standard Bank’s e-currency). To make a payment, card holders simply tap their card against a participating vendor’s cash register and the correct amount will be deducted from their balance.
“The idea behind NFC payment systems is to simplify spending for consumers,” said Herman Singh, chief executive officer of Beyond Payments. “We believe that Unknown Brother provides the ideal opportunity to introduce the concept – the convenience factor of the Oppikoppi card will mean an enhanced festival experience for visitors.” Thanks to the speedy tap n go payment process, queues for food and drinks are expected to be shorter and move more quickly and standing in line for hours for a turn at the ATM will be a thing of the past.
Once the festival is over, any value remaining on the Oppikoppi cards will be converted into mimoney. Existing as a voucher code on the user’s mobile phone, mimoney can be spent at over 25 of South Africa’s premier online and physical retailers (like Kalahari.net, the Look and Listen website, Ster-Kinekor, Mr. Delivery, Incredible Connection, Takealot and others). mimoney provides a safe, easy and cheap alternative to using a credit card for online shopping and virtual payments. Growth in recognition of the value of the ecurrency is evidenced by the fact that new retail partners are signed up every month to make the currency an accepted payment mechanism. While mobile phone-based payment mechanisms and other virtual payment solutions have been in existence for several years already, Beyond Payments is on par with financial service providers worldwide in the race to develop the first NFC systems that will meet with widespread acceptance and change the banking business model as we know it.
In the USA, a collaboration between AT&T Incorporated, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless saw the formation of NFC mobile payment initiative, Isis, in November 2010. During the Isis pilot phase next year, commuters using the Salt Lake City public transport system in Utah will be able to purchase their tickets using Isis-enabled tap n go mobile phones. Beyond Payments is piloting similar solutions for transit in South Africa and will be announcing products in this space later this year. Last month in Britain, Visa Incorporated announced plans to showcase mobile payments at the London Summer Olympics and Paralympics Games in 2012. NFC-enabled mobile phones will be issued to Visa-sponsored athletes, who may use them to make payments at the games. Visa is partnering with British bank Lloyds TSB for this initiative.
Unsurprisingly, Google is also at the forefront of NFC innovation. This May saw the unveiling of Google Wallet, an application that turns mobile phones into tap n go devices. “As a division of Standard Bank, we are extremely proud to be involved in pioneering the technology behind this payment mechanism and introducing it to South Africans,” said Singh. “We believe these innovations will deliver payment solutions that address the needs of the developing remittance market in South Africa and change the way we pay and manage payment in more developed economies too. NFC is the way of the future and after its introduction at Oppikoppi, we foresee it becoming a popular payment method in many other contexts,” he added.
Featuring 80 bands this year, the festival is expected to attract around 15,000 visitors – a formidable pilot audience for Beyond Payments’ tap n go venture. Hilltop Live hopes to standardise the payment innovation and roll it out at all of its major festivals and events, which include more than 60 a year. “The solution not only provides an enjoyable and more efficient user experience for our festival goers,” says Carel Hoffmann, President for life of Hilltop Live, “but importantly, it also provides a cashless event which addresses the risk and cost of cash handling, as well as simplifies the reconciliation process amongst merchants at the event.”
In my opinion, a system like this is just what Oppikoppi needed after the queuing chaos of 2010. At one point we were waiting at the very popular Burger Express stand for about 45 minutes. With a system like this in place, queuing times should be reduced, leaving festival goers with smiles on their faces.
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