More money, more problems. Lacking an easy, accessible, and secure method of transferring money? Even more problems.
An interesting solution to this has been the rise of WeChat Pay, allowing for merchants to use QR codes and social media to make digital payments.
But where does this leave people without sufficient bandwidth? Without reliable, adequate Wi-Fi, technologies like WeChat Pay and Google Pay simply aren't options. People looking to make money transfers are forced to choose between bloated fees or dangerously long wait times.
As designers, programmers, and students, we tend to think about how we can design tech. But how do you design tech for that negative space? During our research, we found of the people that lack adequate bandwidth, 1.28 billion of them have access to mobile service. This ultimately led to our solution: Money might not grow on trees, but Paypayas do. 🍈
What it does
Paypaya is an SMS chatbot application that allows users to perform simple and safe transfers using just text messages.
Users start by texting a toll free number. Doing so opens a digital wallet that is authenticated by their voice. From that point, users can easily transfer, deposit, withdraw, or view their balance.
Despite being built for low bandwidth regions, Paypaya also has huge market potential in high bandwidth areas as well. Whether you are a small business owner that can't afford a swipe machine or a charity trying to raise funds in a contactless way, the possibilities are endless.
Try it for yourself by texting +1-833-729-0967
How we built it
We first set up our Flask application in a Docker container on Google Cloud Run to streamline cross OS development. We then set up our database using MongoDB Atlas. Within the app, we also integrated the Twilio and PayPal APIs to create a digital wallet and perform the application commands. After creating the primary functionality of the app, we implemented voice authentication by collecting voice clips from Twilio to be used in Microsoft Azure's Speaker Recognition API.
For our branding and slides, everything was made vector by vector on Figma.
Challenges we ran into
Man. Where do we start. Although it was fun, working in a two person team meant that we were both wearing (too) many hats. In terms of technical problems, the PayPal API documentation was archaic, making it extremely difficult for us figure out how to call the necessary functions. It was also really difficult to convert the audio from Twilio to a byte-stream for the Azure API. Lastly, we had trouble keeping track of conversation state in the chatbot as we were limited by how the webhook was called by Twilio.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We're really proud of creating a fully functioning MVP! All of 6 of our moving parts came together to form a working proof of concept. All of our graphics (slides, logo, collages) are all made from scratch. :))
What we learned
Anson - As a first time back end developer, I learned SO much about using APIs, webhooks, databases, and servers. I also learned that Jacky falls asleep super easily.
Jacky - I learned that Microsoft Azure and Twilio can be a pain to work with and that Google Cloud Run is a blessing and a half. I learned I don't have the energy to stay up 36 hours straight for a hackathon anymore 🙃
What's next for Paypaya
More language options! English is far from the native tongue of the world. By expanding the languages available, Paypaya will be accessible to even more people. We would also love to do more with financial planning, providing a log of previous transactions for individuals to track their spending and income. There are also a lot of rough edges and edge cases in the program flow, so patching up those will be important in bringing this to market.