Now I’m a big fan of Amazon’s Alexa and own the first generation Echo which plays music and radio in the kitchen and occasionally acts as a timer and controls the nearby lamp.  The three 2nd generation Echo Dots spread round the house are in our bedroom, living room and snug.  The bedroom device is largely used for radio, news and a clock.  The living room to turn the lamp and the plug controlling the TV, Bose speaker and BluRay player on and off (but not Sky+ & Vodafone router) while the snug device controls the lamp and plays me TMS on Radio 5 Live Sports Extra!

Now being a retired “gent” funds are not as plentiful as they once were and I can’t justify buying more Echo Dots for the top floor of the house where the two iMacs reside (den and guest bedroom).  Fortunately for my bank account I read the other day about an app called “Reverb” which you can install on iMacs and iPhones that act as a software only Alexa device.

Now there are some limitations as Amazon only allow you to play music through Alexa when there is a hardware device present.  Also the listening for the wake up call “Alexa” is disabled and you have to hold a mouse click on the “blue ring” to activate it’s capability.  This can be a blessing when mischievous Phillip Scofield activates devices with glee across the UK whenever they on his TV program “This Morning

Click, listening, thinking, verbal answer!

Still, it’s free and despite some negative reviews on the app I think it’s great on my 2 iMacs and iPhone 6!


Once a Geek, Always a Geek…

It’s now over two years since I retired from my job as Regional VP for UK & Ireland at Gartner Executive Programs (keep those cheers quiet all ex-colleagues please) but I still love dabbling in technology where the entry cost is minimal.

So I get a thrill each time I logon via my eldest son’s cast-off iPhone 6 via thumbprint recognition, which incidentally still worked when I cut it open (my thumb!) with an ill thought out attempt to open a tin can…

One of the last attempted and sadly abortive hires in the UK & Ireland team I managed was in the area of fintech, which my new Italian boss was very keen on acquiring into the team, for a very good reason.  Financial services firms typically spend the most on IT with government coming a decent second, but my grasp on this sector was minimal at the time & despite offering to “name your price” the answer was “no”.

Now some time ago I read an article about “Mondo” bank which was a fintech 3rd generation start-up looking at revolutionising the UK current account which typically is rather a kludge with a mainframe type backend with a fancy “app” as a front end with many layers in-between which often cause technical “challenges”.

Now I’ve banked with the Nationwide for many years now and their app just gets better and better but the underlying legacy architecture is still apparent with real time updates of balances pretty much impossible and transactions often taking a couple of days to appear on the account, which on occasion has caught me out in a rather bad way, thinking I had more money than I had…

Mondo, renamed Monzo recently due to a clash with another trademarked business, has an all new architecture that permits real time pushes of transactions and automatic classification of the types of expense plus the ability to take photos of receipts for your records.

This intrigued me and although only a beta test of a pre-paid Maestro debit card it warranted further investigation so six months ago I applied online to join.  Unfortunately there was a waiting list of many thousands ahead of me and I quickly lost interest and ignored an email to say that I was now eligible to send then a £100 top up and get my hands on a card.

That was until a few days ago when Martin Lewis from came on TV and Debbie suggested I listen to what he said about financial common sense when it comes to foreign holidays.

Much to my surprise he recommended the Monzo card as it was very cost effective to use abroad despite the waiting list time.  Given our two trips to Greece we’ve booked in the next year I checked back with Monzo to find out that if I wanted still wanted their card I could without any further delay.

Getting the card was quite interesting as there were no forms to fill out but configuring the app required a photo scan of my driving licence and a short video selfie to be uploaded to their servers, to satisfy presumably money laundering regulations, then a transfer from my Nationwide current account of £100 to pump prime the card which arrived via first class post a few days later.

Not mine I hasten to add…. 🙂

The app on my iPhone was initialised with the card’s details, which incidentally doesn’t have my name embossed on it but is contactless, operates real time and runs against the host application running on Amazon Web Services – at least according to a current Gartner analyst I’m Facebook friends with!

This is where the modern “push” architecture really shows, although “deja vu” hit me again when I discovered much to my chagrin that our eldest son Alex is already a Monzo user.

This is the same Alex who aged ten was interviewed by Jon Snow at the ITN studios for Channel 4’s “First Edition” in November 1994.  The topic was on the information superhighway, as the internet was called then, which prompted me as the so-called global head of IT strategy to download a “Mosaic” browser and demo the world wide web to an incredulous Pfizer leadership team shortly after…

Anyway, to get back on topic today my card arrived and I proceeded to top it up with further funds, freeze and unfreeze it via the app, change the pin, withdraw cash and purchase a bottle of wine from Waitrose using contactless  – all in the cause of fintech user acceptance testing naturally!

I have to say it’s all rather impressive and a foretaste of how current accounts are likely to be operated from a mobile perspective going forward.  I think one of the big six current account providers are likely to buy the company at some stage to leap-frog their traditional competitors and catch up on such fintech upstarts.

Now I wish I’d got shares via the two previous crowdfunding rounds now they’ve obtained an unrestricted banking licence, ah well!  For now I’m keeping my main financial capability with the Nationwide and I’m truly in beta test mode with Monzo but I have a feeling…




Once a Geek, Always a Geek…