Pocketbook experiments with Google Glass, taking money management to the next level

The team behind personal finance startup Pocketbook is currently experimenting with Google Glass in an effort to make managing money even easier for Australians.

Pocketbook’s Co-Founder Alvin Singh says wearable technologies are the next frontier for consumer devices.

In fact, a 2013 study titled ‘The Human Cloud: Wearable Technology from Novelty to Productivity’ commissioned by Rackspace revealed that 35 percent of Australians have used wearable technology such as health and fitness monitors, smart glasses, watches, clothing, or cameras, ahead of 18 percent in the UK and US; and 64 percent of these believe these cloud-powered devices have enhanced their lives.

As such, banks and finance companies will need to innovate to keep up to speed with the constantly evolving consumer landscape.

“Mobile banking has overtaken banking via the desktop in recent years and it has happened tremendously quickly after the wider adoption of smartphones,” says Singh.

ING Direct reported a 280 percent increase in its mobile banking customer base in 2012, and 7 out of 10 Pocketbook users are primarily mobile.

“There’s no doubt that personal banking will move beyond mobile as device adoption of personal wearable devices increases. We are already starting to see the early stages of this – FitBit was the most sought after electronic gadget this past Christmas,” says Singh.

The Pocketbook team believes that Google Glass will be the way of the future – changing the way consumers do their banking.

“Google Glass is indicative of where it all is heading – where technology and the internet defies the existing form-factor of tablets, laptops and phones, where relevant information is as hands-free as talking to someone with a bluetooth handset can be,” says Bosco Tan, Co-Founder of Pocketbook.

“We expect people to use the technology in the same way. Similar to chatting to your mum to get her curry recipe via a bluetooth headset when you’re cooking, or asking directions via a phone call to your friend as you drive to meet them – this technology infinitely adds richness in this experience.”

“You can now get youtube recipes as you cook, Google map directions as you drive, restaurant reviews as you walk into them.”

This is where Pocketbook fits into the picture. Google Glass allows Pocketbook to be more contextual than ever. As you can see from their prototypes (refer to screenshots below), the “nudge” you get when you’re thinking about spending can change a user’s overall financial anxiety.  

Tan also points out that Gen Ys want things to be aggregated, relevant, mobile and simple.

“Facebook gives them this for their social lives, products like Flipboard gives them this for their consumption of news, Google Maps and Wikipedia gives them this for other key information needs instantly.”

“So they expect this for finance and they’re looking for it from our banks and other financial institutions.”

But would Gen Y really want to be seen in public wearing a Google Glass? Is it cool enough for a self-conscious, fashion-forward generation? That remains to be seen.

Tan believes it has “real potential to be the dominant next generation platform.”

“Google Glass is an exciting technology leap. It’s turning the visualisations we saw growing up in The Terminator and Robocop to life,” he says.

“We have no doubt that the direction is right but time will tell if Google Glass is the category leader. The analogy is that Apple didn’t invent the phone or the mp3 player, but they made it easy and a joy to use.”

Singh says as an innovation platform, Google Glass was the pre-cursor to the next phase of “personal internet” technology.

“The ability to richly communicate without any physical interaction is the real innovation,” he adds.

“The device provides the potential for a much simpler and seamless user experience compared to a smartphone. [It] creates a means of intertwining everyday consumption with the world of banking in a seamless way – which pushes the boundaries of what we’re able to achieve today in building the simplest service to manage your money.”

So how exactly can Pocketbook and Google Glass work to help us manage our money better?

For one, Pocketbook on Google Glass makes relevant information available for the users as they explore a cafe district. They can pick up relevant cafe ratings on sites like Urbanspoon; but with Pocketbook, the user will get real-time instructions (based on their budget) how much is safe to spend at the cafe.

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Pocketbook also displays the rating and alternative price for a new Macbook at the Apple Store, while also letting the user know whether their spending for electronic gadgets has exceeded the budget. This means that the user can make a conscious and informed decision about their possible purchase in real time.

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Another interesting functionality is the full view of ATMs. Pocketbook contains the complete picture of the user’s bank relationships, and therefore can present a full view of ATMs where the user can avoid paying the standard ATM owners fees.

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And lastly, while at check out, Pocketbook via Google Glass allows users to select which card to use simply by glancing at the card to obtain key account information.

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That’s some pretty advanced stuff. It will be very interesting to see whether consumers will be onboard with this method of doing personal banking.