Could modern technology make coins and paper money obsolete? The latest contender is a cell phone application called Obopay, and it's named after one of the earliest coin types, the Obal. -EditorThere are signs of a shift in how consumers are paying for goods and services. A widely used device could be used in an innovative way to replace currency.
Consumer habits are changing. The number of bank ATMs fell 9 percent last year. The number of cash transactions dropped an identical 9 percent. However, use of credit and debit cards and online banking is rising. If Carol Realini has her way, consumers will be paying by cell phone. Realini is founder and CEO of a Silicon Valley start-up called Obopay.
"People start to use it and they say, 'Oh this changes the way I do things. This changes the way I settle up bills with my friends. It changes the way my mother sends me money. It's the way I pay my bills back to my family members.' So it changes the way things are," says Realini. Obopay uses your cell phone as a payment device by transferring money from one cell phone user to another. It draws funds from a debit account you set up with Obopay. Payments can be done simply by texting or by using software installed on the phone. The sender is charged a small fee. It is ideal for paying merchants who typically operate on a cash basis.
The concept is high-tech, but CEO Carol Realini admits the idea originated in 2000 during a visit to a mobile phone store in Africa.
"People were standing in line with bags of money to buy their prepaid minutes. They'd take the prepaid minutes and they'd put them in their cell phones, and then they'd start making phone calls, and it just occurred to me that this system could be changed and altered and it would give everyone with a cell phone access to banking services," says Realini.
The name Obopay is derived from the name of an ancient Greek coin, the obol. For now, Obopay is available in the U.S. and in India, but it is very clear that the service eventually could go global.
To read the complete article, see: Pay bills with your cell phone (http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/assignment_7&id=6323447)
For more information about Obolpay, see: www.obopay.com/
Wayne Homren, Editor
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