No NFC or QR code required, fintech startup Aimazing enables contactless mobile payments using sound waves technology

Sainul Abudheen

Aimazing white-labels its SoundWave solution to third-party mobile wallets and banks, and targets emerging markets in Southeast Asia

Aimazing Founder Jun Ting (second from left), with Co-founder Yar Hong Chiong (extreme left) and other team members

After completing graduation from Shih Chien University in Taipei in 2015, 24-year-old Malaysian national Jun Ting embarked on a trip with a mission to learn the mobile payments market in China. A serial entrepreneur, Ting was looking to start a new mobile wallet venture, but he wanted his product to stand out from the rest.

When in China, he realised that Alipay and WeChat, two of the most popular mobile payments platforms, are strong not just in the e-commerce space, but also in the offline retail industry. Ting wanted to emulate their success in Southeast Asia.

“After two months, I came back to Taiwan to start a mobile wallet company, but I realised the regulations around fintech were too stringent, that I would have to cough up about US$17 million to get the required licence. I was unable to afford that much money, so I decided to go back to my home in Johor Baru,” he told e27.

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A few months later, he went to Singapore to do research and realised that the city-state has a vibrant startup ecosystem. “I thought this was the best market to start business,” he added.

English, a herculean task

However, Ting had a major barrier to overcome: English. While he is well-versed in native Malay and Chinese, he was poor in English, a must to survive in Singapore’s tech ecosystem. “During those days, I would bring my cousin to Singapore to help me with translations. I struggled in the first few months, but then I gradually picked up the language as I launched my company,” he narrated his story.

Fortunately, he found some free space at NUS Enterprise. He hired a few people and slowly began to build his mobile wallet venture.

“Mobile payments were already ubiquitous, so starting another wallet with no clear differentiator would be a bad idea. There are already companies like Singtel’s Dash app, which leverages NFC technology, and DBS PayLah!, which uses the QR code to make transactions, and they are already popular. We wanted to combine the advantages of both NFC and the QR code, and develop a different product,” Ting explained.

This is how Aimazing took birth.

Aimazing (a Echelon Asia Top 100 startup) was started off as a mobile wallet company by Ting (Founder) and his friend Yar Hong Chiong (Co-founder), but they could not find a good solution to conduct transaction: QR code is good and it supports all smartphones but the user experience is not that good. Near Field Communication (NFC) user experience is good for ‘tap & pay’, but the problem is that not all Android phones have NFC. “As for iPhones, all of its models come equipped with NFC, but it can support only iPhone, not Android or any other mobile OS,” he said.

Initially, Ting and the team decided to leverage smartphone flashlight and integrate this with the wallet, but they soon had to give up on the idea. Then they experimented with smartphone’s speaker and microphone, and to their amusement, this worked.

“We found that all smartphones have a speaker and microphone, and that’s why we choose SoundWave to conduct mobile transaction. We can provide the same user experience as NFC but at the same time we can support all the smartphone in the world,” Ting explained.

Running out of funds

The idea was to use sound in the mobile wallet Aimazing has developed, but this was a costly affair. They did not have enough funds to develop it. Since fundraising is time-consuming and tedious, they decided to pivot the model. “So, we shut down mobile wallet and pivot the business model to a white-label solution. We are now focussing only on B2B. We provide SoundWave payment technology to other mobile wallet companies and banks,” he continued.

Aimazing’s technology basically enables contactless mobile payments using sound waves. Its technology sends data over sound that cannot be heard by human beings, enabling connecting without additional hardware. “Our technology enables intuitive mobile payment for all smartphone. It is powered by our proprietary patent-pending Acoustic Communications algorithm. Our SoundWaves tech easily integrates with any existing mobile wallet on the API level,” Ting added.

Also Read: China is new leader in fintech worldwide with 39% of global volume [infographics]

As for merchants, they can use their own point-of-sale terminal or smartphone and download a mobile wallet app. The user just has to hold his or her phone near the terminal or the merchant’s phone to make payment. There will be a beep when the transaction is completed.

While the product is already available in the market, the official launch will take place in Q1 2018 in Taiwan. Aimazing, which was part of The FinLab’s accelerator programme of 2017, plans to expand to Southeast Asia in the coming months, especially Indonesia and Thailand.

The company has already integrated the product with a few mobile wallet brands and banks. As for revenues, Aimazing takes a cut from the transaction fee.

The startup is now exploring partnership with OEMs.

Aimazing is not the only company providing a sound wave-based mobile payments services. A couple of months ago, Google launched its SoundWave mobile wallet ‘Tez’ in India.

“We can white-label our solution and empower banks and mobile wallets with SoundWave payments, but Tez will never white-label SoundWave payments to third-party players,” he concluded.

In November last year, Aimazing won MAS Fintech Awards.

Image Credit: Aimzaing

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