Instead of queuing up at busy cashpoints, customers at Spanish bank La Caixa can now access a virtual cash machine on their 3G handsets.
The virtual cashpoint is available to access via a video call on a 3G mobile phone. And all the services you’d expect from a cashpoint are available – apart from cash withdrawal, for obvious reasons.
Bank customers will be able to use the phone keypad to access their account information, see balances and transfer money, for example, just as they would at a conventional cashpoint, the Financial Times reports. During the video call users will be asked to respond to a series of numbered command options – as with a physical cashpoint – by pressing the corresponding keys on their telephone keypad.
Book tickets, top up your phone
Customers can also recharge pre-paid mobiles, watch YouTube videos and book theatre tickets on their 3G handsets.
La Caixa is Spain's largest savings bank. It hopes the technology will help attract customers from rival banks.
"This is the sort of convergence model that mobile phone telephone operators have been talking about for years," Nicolás Luca de Tena, who developed the video-calling for bank services patent, told the FT.
"Of the 2.4 billion visits made to ATMs in Spain every year, more than a third do not involve withdrawing cash," Luca de Tena added, explaining why Spain is the perfect testing ground for this technology.
Mobile phone penetration in Spain is one of the highest in Europe, while broadband access is still rare. About 90 per cent of mobile handsets in Spain are set to be equipped with a video-calling function by the end of next year, according to the FT.
Cost remains an issue, however. Video calls are still around twice as expensive as conventional telephone conversations, but La Caixa said it was talking to Spanish operators to try and reduce tariffs.
In the UK, banks including Barclays and Lloyds TSB already offer some mobile banking services, including sending out SMS alerts when you’re approaching your overdraft limit, and SMS balance alerts. Neither bank has any plans for similar video-calling services at this stage though, spokespeople told TechRadar.
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