Smartphone Camera Spurs Innovation in Personal Finance


The smartphone really has revolutionized how we live, work and transact. One component of the smartphone – the camera – has been a prolific driver of creative applications. There are apps to scan barcodes for shopping comparisons, apps for uploading notes from your whiteboard, and even apps for translating pictures of text into different languages. For financial services, the most obvious example is remote check deposit. The ability to snap a picture of a check and have it be deposited in a bank account has really caught on with consumers, and is a perfect example of tailoring the user experience to the attributes of the device and the context in which it is used, something of which we are big proponents.

The next big thing for the camera just might be mobile bill capture. The concept is similar to remote check capture: you take a picture of a bill, and then relevant information is populated into your mobile banking application and ready for you to click pay. It makes paying your bills a snap, literally.

U.S. Bank has become one of the first financial institutions to make this a reality, and it works through their existing mobile app powered by MobilitiTM from Fiserv. Fiserv had been working on this concept for several years, and in 2011, the bank came to us and asked us if we could help them bring the idea to their consumers. Together with an image capture provider, we integrated this functionality with our existing bill pay and mobile platform.

We first looked at doing mobile bill capture about four years ago. Back then, it didn't resonate with our focus group. Since then, the popularity of mobile check deposit has really help pave the way for the concept of using your smartphone camera for financial transactions. As more providers include payment information embedded in QR codes on their paper-based statements, the number of consumers paying bills using the smartphone camera should increase.

In addition to mobile bill capture, we've patented and are developing new functionality we call "snap to tag." "Snap to tag" is similar to mobile bill capture, in that it captures information from an image, such as a bill or a receipt, but it adds an additional layer of intelligence to help consumers manage their finances. For instance, if you go to a restaurant and take a picture of your receipt, you can immediately tag it as "Dining" and have it associated with other transactions in this category. After the transaction clears, the software matches the image to the transaction in your online or mobile banking, so you can see the receipt associated with your purchase. Innovations like these are really about making managing finances effortless for the consumer.

We'll be demonstrating "snap to tag" at the FinovateSpring 2013 conference this week. And you can look for these and other novel solutions tailored for the mobile channel to come to an app store near you soon.

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