One Sticker Could Mean Mobile Payments Without a Signal

October 31, 2016         By: Steven Anderson

It’s not always easy to get a cellular signal outside of certain parts of the world. Even a 3G signal is too great a leap for some users, and that makes mobile commerce particularly difficult to engage in. A new development could change that, taking advantage of a small sticker that allows mobile commerce to carry on even when there’s no signal to be had.

Mobile wallets are increasingly popular in developing nations. For example, in Kenya 58 percent of adults use some kind of mobile device to manage money, and often it’s through simple feature phones that use short message system (SMS) transmissions to carry out business. Enter the DigiTally system, which uses a subscriber identity module (SIM) sticker to let users both make and receive payments, even when a signal can’t be immediately had.

The sticker functions like an SIM card, which can be installed over standard device contacts. Users visit a central location to add money to the DigiTally system, then the DigiTally sticker operates like a prepaid card built into a SIM sticker. When the user returns to an area that does have a signal, the accumulated transactions are filed and relevant balances are applied.

It’s a clever idea, and it also takes a cue from a network principle known as “traffic shaping.” In traffic shaping, a network can prioritize traffic according to needs on the ground; if there’s too much traffic, certain elements can be delayed for later. This is usually done when someone is trying to send email at the same time someone else is on a video conference, but it works just as well here. The transaction can wait a bit until the network is clear until it goes out.

This means better network function and the ability to bring mobile payments systems just about anywhere. This can be good news for users and great news for those who take a cut of payments processed. DigiTally might just be the real winner here, providing a new bridge to get mobile payments almost anywhere.