The Future of Payment Wearables

Image Courtesy: Pixabay
Image Courtesy: Pixabay

Wearable devices have been part of history ever since humans started innovating ways to make everything portable and readily accessible. Military and medical fields have been using wearables a few decades ago, but last 2014 was considered by many tech experts to be the year when it became a hit with consumer electronics.

The leaps of advancement in computing and chip fabrication technology now let us enjoy the use of wearables as a fitness tracker and health monitor, sports watch, and as a smartwatch that basically acts as an extension of our smartphones. With its increasing market share and the continuous surge in consumer spending, it’s as plain as day for credit and tech companies to pounce on the opportunity and ride the wearable tech wave.

From paper bills to credit cards, we’re now moving to both cashless and contactless payment system. No more snapping plastic cards and wads of bills in your bulky wallet. This is the future of spending.

Big Players’ Move

Major credit card players are already on board this rising trend.

Visa significantly demonstrated the benefits of using the new tap-to-pay scheme offered by wearable tech during the 2016 Rio Olympics. Collaborating with known manufacturers like Swatch, Visa was able to link credit accounts to watches, rings, and bracelets to allow contactless and cashless payment schemes.

Athletes were able to purchase without the hassle of bringing cash and card, which really is ideal for their payment preference. The devices issued were also built for strenuous sports activity and are water resistant – a big plus for sportsmen. Visa also introduced a prototype of a ring that also provides similar payment technology.

MasterCard® is not one to be left behind. Since last year, they’ve been working with several prominent manufacturers like General Motors and Qualcomm to support their wearable tech program. Their grand plan: turn any gadget, accessory, or wearable into a payment device. This is in response to the anticipated surge of internet connected devices by 2020 as predicted by Cisco. Soon, we will be able to pay using key chains, glasses, or just about anything we can think of.

Use of wearables as the payment method has been gaining ground since major tech players like Apple and Samsung jumped in the field. Apple with its Apple Watch® and Apple Pay® is now being used in the UK and US. Latest releases of Samsung Gear® utilizes contactless payment via Samsung Pay® on their smartwatches in addition to call and text functions.

Fitbit, a pioneer in health and fitness wearables, recently acquired assets of Coin, an electronics and fintech company. Expect to be able to pay using your fitness trackers in the following years.

Barclaycard, UK’s leading credit card provider released the bPay® family in their move to take advantage of contactless payment schemes. It includes the bPay sticker which can turn anything into a contactless payment device.

Wearable tech is not limited to phones, wrist, and eye accessories alone. The fashion world has been dipping their toes in the water with the introduction of smart clothing.

Sportswear seems to benefit more of this innovation at the moment. Running shorts, cycling shorts, and even socks have been equipped with wearable tech allowing users to monitor heart rate, breathing and movement patterns, cadence, and muscle effort. Data collected is sent to an app on programmed to interpret workout results.

Lyle & Scott, a fashion company, teamed up with Barclaycard to design the first jacket that can process contactless payments. The jacket is now available in the market.

The Tech Behind

Contactless transactions use the NFC or near-field communication technology to enable data transmission. The source and receiving device should be at a few inches distance to work; not a problem at all for this type of application. Its power consumption is almost negligible which is ideal for fashion accessories and gadgets.

Security concerns should not be an issue with this technology. NFC connects in a fraction of a second that it’s almost instantaneous giving a very tight period for an interception attack or eavesdropping to occur. Unless the item is stolen, which is also the issue with credit cards, there’s no need to worry on processing secured transactions.

Bright Future Ahead

Wearable tech really is where we’re headed in the coming years. Price for integrating this tech is still high like when computers and mobile phones were first introduced in the market. But give it a few years and wearable tech will become as cheap as your fast food frappe.