Published on August 8th, 2016 | by Varuna Singh0
Pay for Petrol with your Phone? Beam Wallet & EPPCO Hands On
The good times we live in today. Mobile payments have come to our supermarkets, cafes and restaurants. Until very recently, you had to rely on cash or card to pay for fuel at petrol stations across the UAE. You’d probably have to get out of your car to enter in your PIN number. In fact, I’ve seen people shout out their PIN number just so they don’t have to get outside their car. If you were paying by cash, figuring out proper change to being charged an extra AED2 for using your bank card, the experience wasn’t perfect. In hindsight it was pretty bad. But what other way was there?
You don’t even have to get out of your car
Beam Wallet has been around in Dubai and the region for a while now. They launched in 2015 as a mobile wallet using Bluetooth low energy (BLE) and NFC technology on your phone to make payments. They are a smart payment gateway and wallet that authorizes and makes payments for you in a secure and simple manner. It’s now slowly becoming a hub for rewards and more importantly an effective alternative. Which makes sense considering mobile payments have sprung up in the region in partnerships with brands with reward schemes attached.
But payments should go everywhere. The problem I highlight in the first paragraph really suggest a scope for improvement. Today, you can use your Beam wallet app on your phone and pay for your fuel using just your phone. You don’t have to get out of your car. You get charged exactly the cost of the fuel and there are no hidden costs or fees involved.
Improved and sensible UI design
You can do this today at EPPCO Petrol stations across the city. This launched last month and I’ve tried it multiple times. While there were problems when it first launched, today it works pretty well most of the time. Here’s how it all happens
0. All EPCO stations are now equipped with iBeacons – they are a class of Bluetooth low energy (LE) devices that broadcast their identifier to nearby portable electronic devices. It’s usually a tiny attachable device that works without anyone having to attend to it.
1. You pull up to a fuel base station, greet the staff who fills in the fuel as per your request. Everything till this point is exactly how it always has been.
2. You can at this point or whenever the fuel has been filled, open up the Beam Wallet application on your phone. Now you’d obviously would have to have signed up, added your debit card and created a 4 digit password. It’s this pin that you use to authenticate and make transactions. You also need location on your phone that the app can access.
3. If the option doesn’t spring up, you can press the big Beam icon action button. Since Beam Wallet knows you are probably at a Fuel station which is EPPCO, it will greet you to tap the “Tap Here to Beam”.
4. The next step all we do is select which pump number you are at.
5. If you’re still pumping, it will automatically know when that pump number is done. It’s that smart!
6. You’d have to tap “Done Filling” to know the cost and confirm the purchase.
That’s pretty much it. I felt it was really elegant and worked really well. It only does fuel for now.
“Only limited to fuel for now”
Which means if you opt for other EPPCO services like Car Wash, fuel injection, etc they will not be Beam-able. You’d still have to pay EPPCO in card/cash for those. Beam Wallet is limited to only fuel for now.
Beam Wallets don’t just rely on Wireless methods of payment. At Circle K, for example, the app shows a QR Code that a normal checkout machine at the checkout counter can scan and validate your payment. I’ve had a few problems with them earlier, however their new app and UI has been better improved and is more reliable. Beam Wallet only works when both side of the payment process has access to internet. Which in majority means you will need to have both data and Bluetooth enabled and working for this to work seamlessly.
The future of payments in the region is looking like a fight between partnerships. I’d love to see this more integrated in other places. Android Pay and Apple Pay aren’t here officially and products and services like Beam Wallet and others coming up innovating on a partner by partner level. That’s good news and convenience for most of us and it feels like Beam is leading it here.