Joy of Cheques

An electronic cheque which eliminates the need for costly processing by banks but preserves the simplicity and ease of a traditional cheque book has been designed by a team of academics in the UK.

Drawing on the life experience and concerns of a group of 80 year olds in the Newcastle area, the team from York, Newcastle and Northumbria universities have come up with a novel way of making quick and easy electronic transfers, while preserving the value of a paper cheque as something physical to be handed to the recipient.

The system uses a cheque book identical to those currently issued by banks except for the greyish background on each cheque which is in fact billions of tiny dots laid out in a specific pattern.

Using widely available digital pens – the account holder writes the cheque and as they do so a camera in the pen tracks the position on the paper, ‘reading’ the cheque as it’s written.  Once complete, they tick a box – the only difference to a normal cheque – and the information is transmitted directly to the payee’s bank account.

This work furthers Newcastle University’s reputation as a world leader in research relating to Ageing and Health. The commitment to research on Changing Age addresses the challenges of ageing in order to make the very most of our increasingly long lives.

The research, carried out at Newcastle University’s Culture Lab, was presented last week at the Computer Supported Co-operative Work (CSCW) conference in Seattle.

Dr John Vines, of Newcastle University, said that since starting the project, which is funded by Research Councils UK through the Digital Economy Theme, the team had quickly realised this was not just an ‘older’ issue.

“Sending a cheque in a Christmas or Birthday card is something many people do – not just the older generation.  It’s easy and safe but it’s also personal,” he explained.

“The groups we worked with to design our system felt transferring money into your loved-ones account was very impersonal while a cheque was more meaningful.

“The beauty of this system is that it is a safe and cheap electronic transaction for the banks but it’s a physical paper-based transaction for the customer.”

A study by Age UK last year entitled The Way We Pay revealed 73% of people over 65 in the UK still frequently use cheques.


published on: 22nd February 2012