After I blogged about the POSB Smart Buddy Watch last month, I contacted POSB hoping for a review unit and the bank came back with a better alternative; an opportunity to attend a presentation about the POSB Smart Buddy programme which I gladly took up.
The presentation opened with an elaboration on the reach and receptiveness of the POSB Smart Buddy programme; 19 primary schools so far and reception has been very positive. For the record, there are close to 200 primary schools in Singapore so POSB is taking a small albeit important first step.
A bold move nevertheless considering the cashless payment avenues for Singapore remains largely fragmented to date.
Tham Miaw Ling, a parent in attendance whose child is on the Smart Buddy programme waxed lyrical about POSB’s smart watch for children despite initial concerns. According to her, the Smart Buddy programme allows her to track her daughter’s expenditure and even encourage her child to stay fit via the tracked steps count.
Nowadays, her daughter would rather pay via the cashless NETS terminal in school as it allows her to skip the food stall queue that takes cash payment.
After the presentation, I got to see the POSB Smart Buddy watch in action and the numerous functions tied to the wearable. Pairing of the watch to the parent’s mobile device is fuss free and offers some minor customisation such as the setting of name for the child on the Smart Buddy watch. There are also other novel features within the app such as helping the child to set goals for a big purchase or viewing overall step count for the week. The Smart Buddy mobile app is available on both Android and iOS platform.
Payment via the POSB Smart Buddy watch on the NETS payment terminal is instant and so is the updating of the purchase on the parent’s connected mobile device. It was pretty amazing to see the entire process take place before my very eyes.
Do you remember how your PE teachers used to teach you about nutritional intake and tasked you to keep a food diary of the meals you consumed in school? Well the Smart Buddy mobile app records the exact food item the child purchases in school as long as the item was paid through the Smart Buddy programme. There you go, instant food diary without the hassle.
One might ask if this level of tracking is necessary for a primary school child. Absolutely. It’s no surprise that kids at primary school age hardly remember what homework they have to do for the day or what books they should bring the next day. Heck, even most adults can’t recall what they had for lunch the previous few days!
The iconic National School Savings Campaign lives on digitally within the Smart Buddy app, allowing a child to purchase “e-stamps” which qualify for $1 bonus when $10 worth is saved and deposited monthly. That’s 10% returns for an effective lesson on ROI! Also, at the end of every month, the savings accrued by the child automatically transfers to the child’s bank account without the hassle of having to visit the bank.
Having the Smart Buddy track and tabulate expenditure clearly allows for budget education between the parent and the child.
POSB has evidently gotten the implementation structure all sorted out; fail-safe for watch loss, allowance limits, and need for instant allowance to-ups have all been put in place. So the next phase should naturally be wearable customisation which I understand is being looked into.
If there’s any consistent trend the global wearable tech has surfaced, it’s that customisation ranks up there along with usability. The colour scheme of the POSB Smart Buddy Watch is somewhat in line with POSB’s theme which isn’t so great if your target audience is kids. Remember how as a child, our teachers used to reinforce our efforts with gold, silver or bronze star stickers? Yeah, something like that. Bright colours, changeable straps, bigger displays with smileys when the target is met are just a few avenues worth exploring if a wearable upgrade is in the works.
Plans are also underway to introduce a biometric payment solution with Touché, a local fintech, to allow students to pay using their two fingers at any Touché device in the school. Thus eliminating the need for any wearable hardware completely. All that’s required is linking of their POSB Smart Buddy programme to their parents’ account.
Along with the government’s push towards a cashless payment society, timing couldn’t have been better for POSB.
Will the other banks follow suit?
There’s nothing stopping them but POSB has the first-mover advantage; they’ve been trialling versions of their smart wearable since 2016.
Said Jeremy Soo, Managing Director and Head of Consumer Banking Group (Singapore), DBS Bank “We believe that POSB Smart Buddy represents a paradigm shift for Singapore’s education sector – not only by changing the way students save and spend – but by creating a digital payment ecosystem within schools. It transforms the age-old ‘pocket money’ tradition, teaches students how to manage their expenses and save wisely, and provides small business owners in schools greater incentive to adopt digital payments. To truly become a Smart Nation and for us to fully embrace digital payments, we aim to educate the students of today so that they are well prepared for the technology of tomorrow.”
What’s in store sounds exciting and I’m sure POSB will do even better with the next rendition of their Smart Buddy, whatever form it may be.