There’s a new breed of smart technology changing the world we live in. From facial recognition to domestic appliances that connect to the internet, many of our interactions with everyday services are ripe for radical improvement.
And for those of us who like to manage our money well, some of these technologies are ready and waiting to be put into action.
Here are 4 forward-thinking technologies you can adopt right now to make your money work harder (and your life a lot easier, too).
1. Bring your penny jar into the 21st Century
Innovation in financial services may be stereotypically slow moving, but banks and other providers are finally starting to look beyond online banking apps towards tech-savvy ways that could help you manage your money in a smarter way.
One such innovation brings the adage "take care of the pennies, and the pounds will take care of themselves" firmly into the 21st Century. Several banks across the world, including Lloyds and RBS here in the UK, have launched schemes to help you save your loose change electronically. Under such a scheme, if you were to buy a small loaf of bread for (say) 79p, your bank would round up the payment to the nearest pound, in this case automatically transferring 21p into a nominated savings account.
TechnologyAlthough you might not save thousands of pounds with this method, it could be a good way to supplement your existing savings plan, helping you to save painlessly towards those important financial goals. Crucially, it does so without requiring any extra effort on your part.
2. Speed up transactions with mobile payments
A new service in the UK lets you send and receive payments through a mobile phone number. More than 360,000 users had already pre-registered for Paym (pronounced "pay-em"), which launched in the UK on 29 April. Championed by the Payments Council, it will be used by many of the major UK banks, and financial providers have had to sign up to strict security guidelines. (You can find out how it works here.)
It seems there is some consumer scepticism on entering the brave new world of mobile-to-mobile payments: just 25% of bank customers recently surveyed said they expected to use Paym. Will you be an early adopter?
3. Monitor your way to lower energy bills
Energy monitors have been around for a few years now and are a prime example of how our homes are getting tuned in to technology. With the constant battle to ensure your energy tariffs are working for you, plug-in energy monitors provide you with an at-a-glance summary of how much electricity your favourite appliances are using.
Not to be confused with smart meters (which send metering information back to the utility company), energy monitors are for your eyes only, helping you keep closer tabs on your energy consumption and make informed choices to cut down your bills. According to the Energy Saving Trust, you could see your electricity bill cut by 5% and 15% in the first year: that could equate to a saving of between £25 and £75 on an average bill.
4. Get ‘appy’
Most of the UK big banks now offer a mobile banking smartphone app to help you keep track of your balance, transactions and make transfers wherever you are. However, for important activities such as budgeting, setting goals or building your savings towards something special, there's a problem: it’s harder to take your spreadsheets and all your accounts with you on the go.
MoneyHub, powered by YourWealth, aims to change all that. It is powerful enough to estimate your future net wealth, monitor your transactions against your budget and goals, and, should you choose to, share your plans with a trusted financial adviser. It is also easy to use: you can see all of your accounts on one dashboard, including mortgages, investments, pensions, savings, credit cards and more. The MoneyHub Premium service automatically imports your balances and recent transactions for just £9.99 a year.
What’s on the way in future?
A London design consultancy recently made prototypes of reactive bank cards: Chip & PIN cards which can change shape, flash or respond to their owner depending on the status of their account. One card, created using a polymorphic material, crumples if the user has spent too much money; another inflates like a balloon to catch the user’s attention if their account is overdrawn. Could these be the next big thing? These bank cards with personality are just one instance of reactive design offering a new solution to the age old problem of how we manage our money, and chances are there’s plenty still to come.