Arduino-powered iBag locks up to stop you spending

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CNET Editor

Michelle Starr is the tiger force at the core of all things. She also writes about cool stuff and apps as CNET Australia's Crave editor. But mostly the tiger force thing.

An Aussie-designed "smart bag" uses GPS tracking to help you manage your money by locking up when you are near danger spending zones.

(Credit: Finder)

According to ASIC's MoneySmart, Australians have collectively racked up AU$34 billion in credit card debt. That's a lot of moolah — and one Aussie company wants to tackle it with a novel approach. Wouldn't it be great, Finder supposes, if we could lower the rate of impulse shopping?

The proposed solution? A handbag that prevents you from accessing your wallet at certain times of day or locations. iBag, powered by Arduino, is a programmable bag that lets ladies nip impulse spending in the bud (because ladies statistically make more impulse purchases. Men, it ought to be noted, make fewer purchases but spend more money).

The concept has a few key features that you can program in different ways, by time-of-day, location or removal of your wallet. You can program it to lock closed between, say, the hours of 12pm and 1pm if that's when you spend the most money, or if you pass by your favourite shop, powered by a GPS. Alternately, it can flash hazard lights when you open it if you're in one of your "danger spending zones" — and, if you remove your wallet, sensed via an RFID system, it can send a friend, a partner or even you a text message that your wallet has been removed from your bag at a particular bar.

This GPS would be neatly sewn into the bag's lining in the final product.
(Credit: Michelle Starr/CNET Australia)

But the owner controls what the bag does and when. "We wouldn't want you to be stuck in an emergency situation without access to your things," Finder's Michelle Hutchison told CNET Australia. "The idea is to make you stop and think about your spending, not to take away control." The company is still working out the details, but Hutchison noted that users will probably be able to control the bag via smartphone app or browser-based interface, and that the final version of the bag is likely to have a front pocket that you can keep your phone in so that it doesn't get trapped inside when the bag closes its gates.

"The core function of the iBag centres on teaching people to be aware of their spending urges and to help them monitor when they're using their credit cards," said Finde's Jeremy Cabral. "The RFID system makes it really easy to do that. You can access the usage logs with software that accompanies the iBag and use it to program it to shut during your peak spending hours... with enough interest in the iBag, we'd love to develop a version for men too."

The company is currently gauging public interest in the bag on its website and, if enough people want one, plan to take the concept to Kickstarter. The bag itself, Hutchison said, wouldn't be likely to cost more than AU$200 — which isn't too bad when you think how much it might save you in the future.

Now all it needs to do is figure out a way to stop people from making impulse purchases online. My personal weakness is Kickstarter. Oh, wait...



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