Voice interfaces are a megatrend already - but they’re especially interesting for demographics that weren’t much in touch with digital technologies or banking so far. There has been a viral video of a young girl ordering an expensive doll house and candy with Alexa. This inspired us to think about an application that let’s children playfully learn to deal with money issues through voice banking. We’ve all grown up with pocket money and “piggy banks”. But in a cashless society without coins, how will children learn what dealing with money actually feels like?

What it does

“SpeakyBank” is a voice-enabled piggy bank for kids that is connected to a parent task list app. Parents can add household chores like cleaning up the room or doing the dishes. They can assign a task, completion time and money reward for it. This is especially interesting for working parents that aren’t at home during the day.

Kids can ask SpeakyBank about their current balance. SpeakyBank will then ask if chores like cleaning up the room have already been completed. If the child has done so, it needs to tell SpeakyBank and parents will get an app notification. When at home, they can review if everything was completed correctly. If done so, they can accept the submission and the pocket money will automatically be transferred to the virtual SpeakyBank.

Kids can also set saving goals (f.ex. 50€ for a new bicycle) and earn bonus rewards if they answered money quizzes correctly. This teaches children the importance of completing tasks, variable rewards and value of money.

How we built it

We’ve brainstormed a lot about voice banking but quickly came to the conclusion that most grown-ups would rather not want to have their account balance or spendings read out aloud by a voice assistant for privacy reasons. We therefore decided that children’s piggy banks were a better use case for voice banking because of less privacy concerns and the playful educational aspect.

We’ve then talked to several young parents and asked about fears and desires that i have in regards to banking. Most of them weren’t afraid that their kids would turn into money-grubbing zombies, but rather liked that it limits “screen time”. They also valued the educational aspect of the voice interactions assistant.

Challenges we ran into

The choice fell on Alexa because it seemed easier to implement than Google Home. We then built an AWS backend and connected it to a angular2 frontend.

The Alexa setup actually turned out to be more difficult than expected because some of the commands were recently changed and didn’t fit with the documentation anymore.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

Building a working prototype that successfully connects different technologies including end to end demonstration (Alexa, backend, web-app).

What we learned

We’ve done a lot of research on banking apps for children and saw that they’re mostly designed for teens. Children under 8 years typically do not understand important aspects of money or app interactions yet. Thus we’ve specifically targeted the app towards children aged 4 to 8.

We also found that only a few weeks ago, CreditSuisse has launched Digipigi, a physical money box for children that comes with an app for parents and credit card for children. We found however that the hardware (a plastic piggy bank with a LED screen) is mostly an unnecessary gadget that doesn’t add much value beyond the cuteness factor. We found that voice is indeed a better way to educate children about the importance of chores and money because there is a two way interaction. We find it incredibly important to not only let children do chores but also educate them about money in a cashless society. Furthermore, we're busy knitting cute little hats for Alexa so kids like her more.

What's next for SpeakyBank

We’ve built the basic features of the SpeakyBox Alexa skill and parent app: Define tasks, ask for account balance, define savings goal, finish task, review task, money calculation quiz and receive pocket money bonus.

In our superfluous society, we also think that it’s important to teach parents about appropriate rewards for a child of a certain age. We want to do this by crowdsourcing data from parents and kids that are using SpeakyBank. From this data we would like to create recommendations if parents pay children too much or too little, or if they don’t give them enough to do’s or freedom. Connecting parental bank account information and spending data could also play a big role in this.

After starting with the “voice bank account” SpeakyBank could link to an actual bank account for children. From there, it would be very easy to connect this to Amazon and letting them order things they have saved for. This is especially important because it allows them to learn from their own (digital) mistakes instead of restricting. This teaches them about the difference between “needs” and “wants”. They might “want” a new dollhouse but if they pay with their own money instead of their parents credit card, they will have to learn to prioritize.

Our vision is far bigger than just a virtual voice banking account. It is a bank that literally grows up with its “little clients” and teaches them to be successfully and mindfully deal with money in a cashless society.

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