The STRO (Social TRade Organization) group is working on a open source mobile banking platform that can offer a wide range of financial services such as (micro) payments, installments, checking balances, monitoring transactions, micro finance handling, remittance handling and payment of both salaries and bills. The transaction processing system is designed to handle businesses-to-business (B2B) as well as consumer-to-businesses (C2B) and person-to-person (P2P) operations.
The platform offers currently a large range of financial operations and services that are available via Web access and mobile phone (WAP1/2). The next step is to develop extensions for communication with mobile delivery channels such as SMS and POS (Point of Sale), enabling an integrated mobile banking solution. Today few independent mobile banking providers exist. We think an open source approach will contribute to better access and greater diversity of financial services. The mobile delivery channels will be ideally suited to provide financial services in remote areas (rural banking) as well as serving the un(der)-banked. Organizations, local governments and (micro)finance institutions can make use of the platform to connect with low-income and isolated clients through POS devices and mobile phones. This, all at a low cost.
The development of the POS module in an advanced stage and the development of the SMS module has started. It is however, a large project and STRO is looking for partners who can contribute financially or technically to the project. Examples of potential partners are local governments, (financial) institutions and organizations. If mobile phone operators are interested in a joint request for the GSM-world MMU fund it could be a possibility to initially work together on the submission of a grant proposal
The STRO-group is a network of Social TRade Organizations from Europe and Latin American countries as Brazil, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Uruguay. STRO counts support from local and national governments, chambers of commerce and institutions as the United Nations and the IDB (Inter-American Development Bank)
STRO has a solid track record in the proposed fields of research: 1) innovation of financial services for local economies, in which the organization has been working for over fifteen years; 2) development of appropriate technologies and capacity building to Southern organizations, especially in the past six years with the development of the on-line banking software Cyclos.
STRO usually works with local partner organizations on financial solutions that stimulate local development and create new possibilities for small and medium sized enterprises. As the banking platform is build on a modular and flexible structure it will be relatively easy to deploy financial services that are optimized for the local economic reality.
The emphasis of the work of STRO lies in knowledge transfer and local ownership. Through consultancy and training STRO works towards a stage where the partner organization or institution can fully operate and maintain the system without having to depend on external services or expertise.
Mobile banking solution (SMS, POS)
The central elements of the platform are the on-line banking system Cyclos and the SMS controller. These products have already been completed and are fully operational. Currently we are working on credit / debit card management and the integration of Cyclos and SMS controller and POS devices.
– SMS Channel
The SMS channel will support basic banking operations such as making payments, paying bills and retrieve account information (balance and transaction history). A client can also validate and confirm incoming (SMS) payment requests by replying with a PIN. Currently we have chosen for a payment service that uses plain SMS messages. This can be extended at a later stage with (mobile phone) applications that use SMS messaging as underlying transmission layer.
The SMS channel can also communicate with the Cyclos notification system. Various types of (automatic) notifications can be enabled such as notifications on incoming payments, alerts on balance change, reminders of outstanding loan repayments and also “business and community” type of notifications as received qualifications and matches of offers and wants in the integrated e-commerce system. The SMS channel can also route messages from the Cyclos messaging system. For example “loan agent-to-client” messages. These messages can either be individual or “bulk” (group) messages.
The client can choose in the personal preferences which notifications he/she wants to receive (administration messages can be set as obligatory) and define through what channel(s) he/she wants to receive the notifications. This can be via the internal message system, e-mail and/or SMS. The costs of outbound SMS messages (system to client) can be charged to the client in Cyclos automatically.
– POS (Point Of Sale)
The POS channel will support conventional credit or debit card payments. The platform implements the “dumb card” paradigm where the credit/debit card, POS or mobile phone has no internal data storage but is exclusively used to provide (on-line) authentication, confidentiality and data integrity. This way new services and products can be bound dynamically to a client or group of clients without the need of physical access to the devices. Labor intensive operations such as password management can also be handled remotely. The card module in Cyclos will provide an extensive module for card management. (Existing third party systems with “smart card” implementations and stand-alone mobile phone applications can still use the Cyclos/jPOS platform as payment provider)
In addition to normal card payments the (mobile) POS devices can also handle micro finance operations. For example cash-in / cash-out operations. The POS module will support swipe cards, smart cards and cards with bar-codes. For organizations with limited resources the POS devices can also handle card-less operations. In this case the validation/confirmation will require the account number and PIN to be typed at the keypad.
– IVR (Interactive Voice Response)
In 2007 STRO started the development a software/hardware solution for financial operations via IVR using the Open Source PBX software asterisk (www.asterisk.org). A big advantage of a IVR solution is the widespread and low level accessibility of services. Clients can perform financial operations by calling a number (via mobile phone or land line) that responds to an automatic call center. Through audible menu options (confirmed by typing at the phone keypad) the client can choose the operations that she/he wants to perform. Authentication and confirmation can be handled by PIN and call-back. If necessary the call can be routed to a call center with personal assistance. A IVR solution can be extended with various types of services and integrated with other software products like CRM (Customer Relation Management). Although we have build a successful prototype the module was postponed because of organizational priorities. As soon as we find the time and resources we will retake this project.
Note1: The delivery channels connect to a real-time (on-line) transaction system. This means, for example, that loans and micro credits that are granted via the Web interface will be directly available to clients via all (enabled) channels. The users do not necessarily need to know what kind of access channels are available to other users. For example, a user with mobile phone / SMS access can make a payment to a user with a card and a card user can make payment to users that have web access.
Note2: The delivery channels allow internal routing. For example, a business or loan agent can send a payment request via the web and this request can be routed through the SMS channel. The client will receive the payment request as SMS and can confirm by replying with his/her PIN. The business can follow-up the status of the payment requests on-line at the web interface.
Note3: For all channels apply that the client can either be an individual person or a “loan group”. A loan group is a group of persons where one member of the group can be assigned responsible for a specific loan. Loan groups are common for micro finances services.
Note4: Security has had the highest priority since the beginning of this project. The whole platform has been build with the latest technologies (no legacy software) allowing us to build a completely secure structure.
If you are interested in contributing please send a mail at the contact page.