Currencies beyond cash: new ways to transfer value
It’s not just the advent of blockchain technology that has the planet wondering what will happen to money (and to the entire concept of banking).
While some so-called innovations are not based on particularly new ideas (the age-old concepts of bartering and trade swapping), new technologies are giving businesses like those below the chance to combine traditional banking activities – saving, spending and exchanging – with commodities other than cold hard cash.
Aura, the first app from Secco, combines the concepts of social networking, hyper-localisation and ‘reputationally-driven value tokens’ to allow users to do things like shop, dispense IOU vouchers to friends, and network more effectively. The beta version is expected to be released in early 2017.
As co-founder Chris Gledhill, formerly of Lloyds Banking Group, told The Memo recently: ‘We realised we can start messing with some of the rules of banking… We thought, let’s turn it around and give everyone the ability to define their own money or value, hold their own value on their smartphone, and create their own value.’
Like Bitcoin, this appears to be based on blockchain technology – in a bid to ‘reinvent’ rather than improve banking.
As with Aura, Solarcoin is built on a distributed ledger – it is a global rewards program for those who generate solar energy, with one coin for every one 1MWh of solar electricity generation.
It’s a bit complicated, but with a very laudible idea at its heart.
This iPhone app allows users to collect digital ‘currency’ for completing exercise. For every 1000 tracked and verified outdoor steps, you receive 0.95 ‘SWC’ (Sweatcoins) to spend via the in-app shop. The shop’s contents change daily, and includes exercise goods, snacks, fitness classes and charity donations.
You probably have to walk about 125 miles for a pair of shoes, so it’s not easy money – but it could be set to create a currency that is tied to the British pound, according to The Telegraph.
The long-term goal of the app seems to be to get employers and insurers on board, and sign commercial agreements to use Sweatcoin metrics in the calculation of health risks and insurance premiums.
The app can be downloaded in the UK and the US, with international expansion plans in place.
Attention as a currency
In the world of advermarketingPR, it’s often been said that ‘engagement is a currency’ – but now the attention of consumers could be a real currency for brands and agencies that are happy to reward customers just for looking at their ‘content’.
Tesco Mobile, for example, lets customers opt-in to see adverts every time they unlock their phone, in exchange for money off their monthly phone bill.
Built by an Australian firm, the Tesco Mobile Xtras app won’t interrupt you at ‘important times’ but one advert (or offer, or piece of content) viewed each day for 21 consecutive days could earn you £3 off your bill.
Mapa Research senior analyst Ross Gallagher comments: “The payments landscape in the UK has shifted considerably in recent years, with the evolution of consumer expectations giving rise to a sort of innovation arms race. Consumers are increasingly rejecting traditional payment methods, such as cash, in favour of more seamless offerings that better integrate with their daily lives. As such, we are beginning to see a steady reduction in the overall levels of cash usage in the UK, with cashless transactions overtaking cash transactions by volume for the first time last year. This shows that the UK is transitioning from a cash-dominated society to one dominated by cashless alternatives.”
“It’s clear that consumers are willing to actively seek out alternative payment methods when they feel their needs are not being met. An interesting concept, however, is how this openness to cash alternatives could play out in today’s interconnected society. As consumers increasingly engage with like-minded individuals through digital communities, value becomes redefined based on the shared principles and values of the members. Value is no longer restricted to a monetary interpretation and the social benefit becomes far more important, transforming the way we transact and making physical currency increasingly unnecessary.”