Saturday, November 15, 2008

BEEMME the Mobile Money Scotty!

Beem seems quite cool But needs a network of merchants to support its use;

"The idea that your mobile phone could become a digital wallet has been around for a long time. Here's an object that we carry with us wherever we go. If it could be loaded up with digital cash wouldn't that make life easier - for the users, for retailers who wouldn't need to handle cash, and for the network operators who might eventually become players in the banking industry? But, in the UK at least, mobile money has been a long time coming - in fact, we're making less progress in this area than at least one African country. In Kenya, a system for transferring money between people with mobiles, Mpesa, has been a big success. It enables migrant workers, for instance, to send money home without the trouble of a long bus journey carrying cash.

Now today comes news of another attempt to create a mobile currency. It's called Beem and the press release describes it as "making mobile payments a reality today". Well, almost. I went through a lengthy and quite complex sign-up process to try Beem out - understandably that involves a number of security hurdles - and eventually managed to load £10 from my bank account onto my phone. The idea is that you can then pay for various goods and services simply by sending an SMS. So now I'd like to "beem" a payment somewhere. The only trouble is, there appears to be nothing to buy. Beem says a number of companies have signed up - including pizza restaurants and a taxi service. But when I clicked on my area on their website it showed only the pizza firm and that was marked "coming soon". What Beem - or any other digital money service - needs is a network effect. Once lots of retailers are signed up it becomes more worthwhile for customers to adopt the system and that then encourages more retailers to sign up. Mobile money has proved its worth in countries where many people don't use - or don't trust - the banking system. But we're not quite in that situation here yet. Meanwhile, there is £10 trapped in my phone and looking for a way out.

1 comment:

jab said...

I love beem, @jabventure