I had intended to attend just the first two days, to hear the industry leaders, and to grow my technical knowledge about Microsoft Wallet and Azure. What actually happened was quite different.
Day one was all about ideas and thinking around payments, mobile and wallets. The speakers included Tim Jones (CEO NEST), Shaun Terry (Head of Mobile Development, Barclays UK), Ricardo Varela (BlueVia, Telefonica’s global developer platform), John Conlon (Barclaycard) and Steve Ellis (Metia). Towards the end of the day the talks became more technical, including sessions from Fortuma and FreedomPay, before switching to Andy Wigley from Microsoft who gave a good technical overview of the Microsoft Wallet included in Windows Phone 8. We also heard Shaun Terry talk about how Barclays, for the Pingit project, had adopted a start-up culture and pushed everything through in 90 days, much faster than the normal development cycle in banks. I enjoyed the day and felt I’d learnt a lot by the end of it.
Day two was to include a talk on Azure, Microsoft’s cloud computing platform. The rest of the time was for the ‘hackathon’, free time to develop your app, with support available from Microsoft. When I was at home in the evening I was having second thoughts about returning for Day two. Andy Wigley’s “Digital Wallet 101 for developers” session had been very thorough and I’d gained the knowledge I’d hoped for. Being able to spend the day on outstanding development work would be really helpful as I was very much focused on some development work using the Miura Shuttle Chip& PIN device to create a demonstrator that our business development teams could show off to potential customers.
As part of this work with Miura, to allow us to produce relevant software for iOS and Android, we wanted to as much code-reuse as possible – between these two platforms, and from existing libraries we have developed in-house over the years. We had decided to use Xamarin.iOS and Xamarin.Android (formerly MonoTouch and MonoDroid) for the apps, allowing us to have a common core library for the payment processing and Miura Shuttle reader logic. The core library would be developed as a Portable Class Library in C# using Visual Studio 2012. The applications would then be native applications built with Xamarin tools. These would consume the core library whilst implementing user interfaces and Bluetooth connectivity using native iOS/Android APIs and UI elements, making the apps look just like any other iOS/Android application despite being written in C#.
So I had a dilemma – continue with this pressing demo work, or return to the Digital Wallet Foundry? It was then that I had the idea of porting this work to Windows Phone and trying to have a working demo for the Friday.
I could progress the software I was working on, whilst having a submission for Digital Wallet Foundry that would be able to show off our software development competencies. It would mean a huge amount of work – I was nowhere near completing the core library and hadn’t yet processed any responses from the reader, nor even attempted initiating a transaction. After all, the demo wasn’t due to be completed until mid-April! In addition to greatly progressing the core library, I’d need to develop some Windows Phone specific parts – the Bluetooth connectivity along with the user interface. I thought it might be good to somehow include some Microsoft Wallet integration, but with the amount of work already needed, I thought it would be too much.
Therefore, I returned to Modern Jago for Day two, attending the Azure session and working on-site, knowing that Andy Wigley was around should I need any developer support. As it turned out I was able to make good progress, and got the basic Bluetooth communication between the Windows Phone and the Miura reader working before leaving. Thanks to a kind and understanding wife, I worked through the evening adding more functionality to the core library. Days (and evenings!) three and four were spent in Guildford at our office working on the demo and by the end of Thursday I had a demo which would accept Chip & PIN and magstripe cards, and display the (masked) card details in-app. The transaction amount was dynamic and displayed on the Miura reader’s display, and the card details displayed in-app were actually being read off the card.
On the Thursday I managed to add Wallet integration as well, creating a custom payment instrument card which represented the merchant’s account. Whenever a transaction was ‘approved’ (as this was a demonstrator, no host communications or approvals take place), the amount of the transaction gets added to the merchant’s balance in the Wallet. Additionally, the transaction details (amount, description and customer) get added to the history of the Wallet, allowing the merchant to quickly identify the transactions.
On Friday morning, just before I left, I discovered a bug when using a different card type, but thankfully I managed to get a seat on the train and by the end of the journey to Waterloo I had identified the problem and nearly completed a fix for it. I arrived at Modern Jago with about an hour to go before judging was meant to start and had time to complete the fix, perform additional testing and be confident the application would work as expected when presented. There would still be more work to do to complete the demonstrator for our sales team, but I had made significant progress with the core library.
There were four entries, and I was the third. As the purpose of my entry was to demonstrate our development skills and the technology in action, my presentation was very much focused around the app I had created – I had no PowerPoint or charts. I spoke about Hyperlab and what we produce, particularly how our demonstrators aim to really work with the technology they demonstrate. Basically if our consultants say something can be done with a technology, then Hyperlab can prove it. The demonstration worked without any hiccups, and I felt pleased with what I had presented.
After the judges returned from their discussions they declared that judging had been difficult, particularly with the difference in team sizes and experience, but that the winner was the six man Barclays team, with a payments app called Zoosh. They had produced a good business case and presentation, and had done well producing a Windows Phone app coming from an iOS background. Their prizes included a generously funded meal for the team, and Finnovate tickets, where the judges hoped the team would present an enhanced and improved Zoosh to attendees there. All entrants received a Nokia Lumia 620 as well, so I think everyone left happy!
Overall, it was an excellent week – great speakers and a chance to learn useful and exciting new skills. My thanks to Microsoft for organising it.
These are personal opinions and should not be misunderstood as representing the opinions of
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