Sending home money and love -- face to face
IMMIGRANTS working in Hawaii and other states may soon have another way to send money home to support loved ones -- and it features face time with those they miss.
A consortium including Hawaii Pacific Teleport executive Vince Waterson is developing a patent-pending electronic fund-transfer system that incorporates smart cards, vending machines and video pay phones at shopping malls.
VideoKall Inc., incorporated in Georgia, comprises co-inventor Waterson, Italy-based video conferencing company Aethra SpA and Canada-based smart card company ITC Systems.
Banks and other companies already transfer cash for a range of fees for differing delivery times, with various restrictions.
Philippine National Bank offers account holders same-day remittance for $7. Western Union will shoot $500 from Honolulu to the Philippines in 30 minutes for $51, or in 3 bank-business days for $14.99.
"Other services that charge less can take five days," Waterson said.
But they don't include a video reunion.
Also, VideoKall's system would not require participants to disclose names or have bank accounts.
A VideoKall payphone in Hawaii would transfer cash from a sender's smart card to a recipient's card in Manila in about 30 seconds, while the parties are having their video call, he said.
Call times and locations would be prearranged via text message.
With a $3 card purchase from a VideoKall cash-loading machine, "If you agree to a six-minute call, which costs $15, then the fund transfer is free," said Waterson. Additional minutes would be deducted from the funds to be transferred at $2.50 each.
When filling of hearts and card are complete, the recipient would be able to retrieve funds from a VideoKall cash-dispensing machine or at a bureau of exchange, or use the card at businesses with VideoKall card-readers.
The nearly 2.4 million Filipino migrant workers in the U.S. in 2004 sent $3.7 billion to the Philippines, according to the Asian Development Bank. The more than 218,000 in Hawaii sent home more than $342 million, an average of $1,567 each.
VideoKall officials plan to demonstrate the system to investors in June with the hope of beginning service by the end of the year. The initial roll-out is to serve Mexico, the Philippines and India.
is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4747, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org