#IOU – Twitter enters the payment services market


When Apple launched its latest iPhone in September one of the most talked about features was the Apple Pay service, which will allow iOS users to pay for good and services through their smartphones and has the potential to revolutionise the way we pay for things. And recently it’s been rumoured that Facebook is close to launching a new payment system also that will allow users to transfer money via the social network.

Not one to be left behind, and beating Apple and Facebook to it, Twitter has just launched its own innovative new way to pay for things – by tweeting of course. It’s teamed up with French mobile payment company S-money, a subsidiary of banking group BPCE, (France’s second largest bank), to offer users a new way to send each other money. The service allows anyone with a Twitter account and a bank card to ‘tweet money’ regardless of what bank they use, and without requiring the sender to know the recipient’s banking details.

To make an S-money payment over Twitter, the sender and the recipient must first link their Twitter usernames to their S-money accounts, and the sender must also install the S-money app on their smartphones. After that, it’s as simple as sending a tweet to @SmoneyFR with the hashtag #envoyer (‘send’ in French), the amount in euros and the Twitter username of the recipient.

Although a relatively fun and innovative way to pay, it remains to be seen whether the service will be a success or even expanded outside of France. So far the S-money app has just 100,000 downloads, leaving plenty of room for growth.

In truth, the service isn’t vastly different from the mobile to mobile payment services that have been launched by banks throughout Europe recently. These services allow users to transfer money through their phones by downloading and logging on to the relevant app on their smartphone and then using the recipient’s phone number to send them money, a service which S-money also provides. So what’s the compelling reason to use Twitter?

Since its launch, Twitter’s profitability has lagged behind that of Facebook and other rivals. It’s considered by many to be a ‘niche’ social media network and it still relies heavily on advertising for most of its revenue. Twitter’s success in developing additional services on its platform, as Facebook has done, will be key to its future profitability and industry observers will no doubt be watching the success of this new service closely.

But do social media users really want to use their accounts for anything other than status updates, tweets, looking at photos, and keeping in touch? Can Twitter and Facebook ever hope to be the new eBay or PayPal? Only time will tell…

Last month, Twitter started trials of its other new service, dubbed ‘Twitter Buy’, which enables an initial test number of users to buy products and services directly from their Twitter feeds from various partners such as Burberry and Home Depot. The service embeds a ‘Twitter Buy’ button inside tweets, and is enabled by San Francisco-based start-up Stripe. Twitter is expected to expand the service to more users as well as increase the number of retail partners in the coming months.


3D Printing

Additive manufacturing – or 3D printing – has been around for almost 30 years now. However, 2013 could finally by the year that this technology takes off.

Printing in 3D involves sending a design file to a printer that then forms a solid three-dimensional version of that object by slowly building it up in layers of plastic.

3D printing is usually performed by a materials printer using digital technology. Since the start of the twenty-first century there has been a large growth in the sale of these machines, and their price has dropped substantially. While early 3D printers could only work in one colour, the latest versions can produce intricate, multicoloured objects.

3D printing is considered distinct from traditional machining techniques (subtractive processes) which mostly rely on the removal of material by drilling or cutting etc.

Nokia has now got in on the act. The company has just released design files that will allow owners use 3D printers to make their own phone cases for one of its Lumia smartphones.

Files containing mechanical drawings, case measurements and recommended materials have been released by Nokia. Those using the files will then be able to create a custom-designed case for the flagship Lumia 820 handset.

‘’We are going to release 3D templates, case specs, recommended materials and best practices — everything someone versed in 3D printing needs to print their own custom Lumia 820 case,” Nokia community and developer marketing manager John Kneeland said on Nokia’s blog, where links to the 3D kit can be found.

While on the one hand, Nokia is simply giving its customers the tools to build what they would otherwise have simply purchased from Nokia or a third-party maker, the move certainly can’t hurt the company’s comeback efforts – and image – by opening itself up to the growing and tech-savvy 3D print community.

Of course, designing and printing your own phone cover is just the first step. How long will it be until customers can design and make their own phone?

For more information on 3D printing, watch the following Ted Talks presentation by Lisa Harouni here.