We've both lived in the developing world. Many people don't have mobile data or internet access, but what they do have is SMS and WhatsApp in particular. Data packages exist solely for the use of WhatsApp. We knew of SMS Banking and its limitations and realized that with WhatsApp's end to end encryption we could offer something better.
What it does
SMS-Bazaar allows the easy creation of simple bank accounts. All you need is a phone number and a scratch card to deposit money into the account. It allows users to check their balance, deposit scratch card codes, and make transfers. It also creates an introduction to e-commerce for indigenous people buy our systems simple buy and sell protocol. Users can put up something for sale and search for products to buy. We have also incorporated SMS Banking, but features are limited with SMS for security purposes. For the full suite WhatsApp is required.
How we built it
We built it using Django, the Twilio API, and Capitol One API. We make extensive use of databases regarding the market place and scratch codes. Finally we deployed the project with Heroku.
Challenges we ran into
The start was a bit slow while figuring out the different APIs. The idea had also not completely materialized. A lot care was taken to avoid any possible errors resulting in fraud.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We're proud that we were able to create something that would benefit local businesses and our community. It also raises awareness about the limitations of SMS. Hopefully carriers will soon move onto RCS, which is more secure than SMS and continue developing better systems.
What we learned
We learned how to use Django to create a web server and manipulate databases. We also learned to use the Twilio and Capital One APIs. This gave us an idea of how financial institutions work as well. We also learnt a bit about deployment on Heroku. We also got a chance to implement what we learnt in CSC 423 Database Systems (especially the theory). We also got a chance to refresh our CSC 424 Computer Networks knowledge.
What's next for SMS-Bazaar
We were able to add a field for images in the database, but did not have enough time to implement the retrieval of images from WhatsApp or MMS to store them. This would give customers a better idea of the products. We also had plans to implement the delivery person's side of the equation. This would allow the transaction to be fully completed and all entities to get paid. Finally coordinating with governments and provinces to allow the paying and bills and fines through our system would really help the places we are targeting. The scratch code system is also a bit primitive at the moment. We delete the scratch code from the database when it is used. Ideally we would want more digits and another field in the database declaring if it's used or not. Currently the generation of the scratch codes is an admin command. Implementing it into the admin database for a GUI would be nice as well. Finally, using AI, NLP, and Machine Learning to create a more natural conversation between our customer and our server would be superb so that the customers are confined by strict messaging rules (we tried to alleviate this with some smart regular expressions). Sorry for the long video. We have trimmed it in YouTube, but the processing is taking forever. Feel free to send an SMS or WhatsApp message to +1 (415) 523-8886 to play around with the system. Kindly send 'join army-fellow' first. Here are a bunch of scratch codes 2390617273 2062014570 2147440623 4458762567 6839108652 0400076120 1857758343 5842196615 3392952935 1033645751