Personal Banking Payment System
Tangible Interactions
January 2013
10 weeks
Since the recent financial crisis, many people have lost trust in the banking system. Itau, a Brazilian bank assigned an open brief to improve the personal banking sector through user centered design.

The requirement was to create a tangible artefact that uses play and ubiquitous computing to improve future banking experience - I chose to focus on the bill payment system.

From my desk research, debit and prepaid cards accounted for 64.83% of all general purpose card purchases in 2011 (Nilson Report). Because of this higher use of debit cards, many banks have been implementing more overdraft fees.

In 2008, over $36 billion dollars were made in Revenue from overdrawn accounts, much of which could have been avoided. An overdraft protection can be seen as a short-term loan at varying interest rates depending how much was overdrawn. (Bankrate) This discourages consumers from using the cards and reduces the level of trust with the banks.

Penalizing consumers for nonsufficient funds and overdrafting may provide short term profit, but at the cost of future clientele. Banks should shift their strategy to develop a transparent mutually benefitting relationship.

The objective is to improve the banking experience of the bill payment system so that consumers feel more confident with their banking process. Design a positive and playful artefact that enables consumers to be mindful of their expenditures.

Squared is a simple and fun way to do banking in the comforts of one's home. Through a biometric login, it simplifies the process of paying routine bills, such as rent, electricity, etc, by pleasantly alerting them when bills are due. It provides consumers with a clear idea of how much they really have at any given time, so that they can enjoy other aspects of their life. A personalized banking that they can look forward to.

Understanding the Landscape
Today's existing banking methods of communication were evaluated to locate areas of opportunities.
Different Bills, Different Rules
A visual outline of the various types of bills typical consumers encounter. Different bills require different methods of payments and have different due dates (weekly, bi-monthly, monthly, or bi-annual basis)
User Studies
Forgetfulness was a big factor in why people often become behind on their bills, resulting in overdrafts and other late fees.

I interviewed 8 people to understand more about what are the things they tend to forget to do, why they tend to forget and how or what methods they use to remind themselves. The goal was to see if there was any possible correlation with general forgetfulness and financial priorities.

Guiding Principles
Extracted quotes (below) from the user interviews helped generate design criterias as guiding principles for the final design. Areas of opportunities for each category were outlined below the quotes.
Ideation of the what the ideal eco-system looked like led to initial sketches around those topics.
Final Concept: Squared
The final Squared concept was selected based on its convenient location on the refrigerator or any magnetic surface. The artefact removes the hassle of having to constantly log online for routine bill payments. It provides a friendly playful reminder when bills are due and an up to date "pending status" of what bill is currently being processed.

Each routine bill that a customer pays, he/she receives a representative "chip" in the postal mail from the bank. For example, a home icon, represents "rent" or "mortgage" depending on the customer.

A red chip alerts that payment is near due (buffertime determined by consumer). To pay, consumer simply attaches the designated chip to the main control device (touch screen) and signs through biometric signature.

If he/she wants to make automatic payments, he/she can simply leave the chips attached to the main control.

A blue chip displays that payments are still being processed. The monetary amount that is left over after these pending payments are displayed on the touch screen.

All of these transactions are simultaneously communicated to the online banking system on his/her mobile devices. These devices can also provide remote pay when he/she is traveling.

As consumer accumulates more bills, he/she can simply request more "chips" sent via postal mail from the bank.

Creating the Working Prototype
Part of the requirement of the project was to create a working prototype. Different lighting techniques through various types of acrylic were experimented with to generate the right effect.
Arduino was used to create switch buttons that controlled when a payment was "due", a red LED or "pending", a blue LED.
Multiple layers of acylic were necessary to produce the right look and feel of the prototype. Super magnets simulated the movements to represent "chips" on a faked refrigerator surface.
Storyboarding with small cards helped in editing the communication required to explain the concept in a convincing manner.
The final presentation slide that outlines the idea behind Squared.