A new look at internet banking

2016-09-06 06:00
From left: Daniel Collins from Rondebosch, Liam Doult from Durbanville and Kyle Jordaan from Bellville with the cheque for R100 000 they won for their clever app.

From left: Daniel Collins from Rondebosch, Liam Doult from Durbanville and Kyle Jordaan from Bellville with the cheque for R100 000 they won for their clever app.

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Alexa is in future going to be the new best friend of the visually impaired and computer illiterate. The app, designed by three students of the University of the Western Cape in Bellville, has been developed to help the visually impaired with internet banking.

This is how Daniel Collins of Rondebosch, one of the three students of UWC that attended the Standard Bank Corporate Investment Banking Information Technology Challenge in the Crowne Plaza in Johannesburg, described the app.

Twelve universities competed and the teams were divided in four groups of three.

“We were quite surprised when we were announced the winners,” remembers Daniel. “I knew we had a chance after our presentation went so well. Standard Bank was the host and organised the whole event. Many of the officials of the bank, software developers and marketers attended the event.”

EasyBank is a voice-controlled banking application which allows the user to ask the device to perform banking tasks like money transfers, balance checks and transaction history. The user first needs to log on with their password. This is done by saying “Alexa, tell Easybank my password is ...” followed by the password.

“We were looking for what was missing in the market. If you don’t know how to use a computer you can’t really access online banking without assistance. And the same goes for the visually impaired.

“It took us from the Saturday at 10:00 to the Monday at 13:00 to finish the app. We haven’t patented it; it’s just a demo version, but it is functional. The app will be available whenever Standard Bank employs us and asks us to finish it,” Daniel chuckles.

They have not yet tested the app with the visually impaired as they didn’t have the opportunity. “But since it is all voice activated, it shouldn’t be hard,” he says.

“Many of the students who competed were in their third year or were honours students. We had only three in our team, whereas almost all the others had four. We won R100 000 for our computer science department, and each of us got a Dell Venue Pro 11, valued at R19 000. We also received a trophy of an old computer at a desk, which is now being engraved,” said Daniel.

He plans to work in the corporate world for a short time after completing his honours and masters degrees. After that he wants to join the faster moving industry of software development in startups and app development companies.

“This is my, Liam’s and Kyle’s second year together and I only really learned their names at the beginning of the year. We each spent about 40 hours at our computers over the two and a half days of the competition. It was a great team effort. Reg (Dodds), our lecturer, guided us here and there but was not allowed to assist us,” says Daniel.

“I am in my second year, and I will complete my degree by the end of next year. Going overseas to complete my degree would be amazing; I just need to find a scholarship because dollars and pounds aren’t friendly with the rand at the moment,” he jokes.

At UWC students only need maths and English to enroll in the computer science degree. No prior knowledge of computing is necessary.

“My advice for matrics who are unsure of what to do after leaving school, would be to try a bit of everything. This will help you find something that interests you. You don’t have to be talented at it – it’s the interest that makes the difference. I had no idea what I wanted to study until the end of matric, and the next year I was at university.

“I think entrepreneurship is an amazing thing in the computer science industry. It’s a huge money making opportunity, but it’s also an easy way to lose a lot of money. Not many people would expect me to be good with computers. I was very sporty in high school and I still am. I started up and now manage the UWC rowing club, and we’re racing from Thursday 8 to Saturday 10 September in Port Alfred in the SA universities boat race. All the rowing universities around the country take part in it,” he says.

This sense of team work is what led to a winning app, Daniel says.

“It was team work that led us to victory. Every 10 minutes we would throw ideas at each other while setting up databases etcetera, and then discuss possible ways of making things work. I don’t think we would have come close to winning without each of the three members of our team,” he concludes.

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