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Fitbit bulks ups its payments tech: Fitbit has made the first update to the Fitbit operating system, which is designed add a more personalized user experience for Fitbit Ionic users through new apps and clock faces. Included in the update are faster touch interactions for payments and updates to Fitbit Pay such as the introduction of multi-card payments directly on the device and an expanded network of supporting financial institutions, according to an announcement from Fitbit. The company considers wearable payments to be a gateway to a broad set of use cases tied to the company's fitness-tracking mission, using the bands as an alternate to a mobile phone when making payments at a gym or other errands related to exercise. Other features of OS update include support for apps from The New York Times, Uber, Yelp and other brands across games, health/fitness, travel and news categories; more than 100 clock faces; Fitbit Labs (a development team that focuses on building new apps and clock faces based on machine learning and behavioral insights); and a partnership with music streaming service Deezer.

Fitbit Pay
A customer uses Fitbit Pay. Fitbit

Art of bitcoin: Bitcoin's usage is expanding as the virtual currency gets more attention, leading to more use cases. American artist Mark Flood sold a painting last week in New York for 12.3 bitcoin (or about $100,000) in one of the first art sales via the virtual currency. The White Company, which sells art and luxury goods, sold the piece "Select Victim," a 2013 painting by Flood that was offered to a Canadian citizen who wishes to remain anonymous. "We have tremendous demand for art and luxury goods from buyers who have recently come into significant cryptocurrency wealth," said Elizabeth White, CEO of The White Company, in a release. "They want to purchase tangible items with their newfound wealth and are finding it troublesome." The White Company is rare among art dealers who accept bitcoin, which has grown in value as a trading asset but is still not widely accepted for payments.

Market in the dash: As connected cars bring transactions closer to the driver, General Motors plans to install its GM Marketplace in nearly 2 million 2017 and later models, with a goal of having it in 4 million cars by the end of 2018, reports Engadget. GM, which has been working to embed shopping and payments into its automotive technology for years, will receive an undisclosed amount of revenue from merchants that will be part of the marketplace, including Starbucks, TGI Friday's ExxonMobil, Parkopedia and Priceline.com. People will be able to order and buy items from these merchants while driving, though the pickup and gas-filling experience will remain the same, according to Engadget, which reports Jaguar, Ford and BMW have build similar shopping experiences for drivers, with Ford and BMW collaborating with Alexa and Jaguar and Shell partnering for gas payments.

The cost of real-time payments: The expansion of real-time payments and technology related to fast processing, such as machine learning and open banking, will cause a huge expansion in IT spending among financial institutions, particularly on the corporate banking side. Ovum, which was commissioned by Icon Solutions, predicts half of U.S. banks and 40% of Canadian banks will increase spending on real-time payments as a platform for technology expansion. Researchers polled more than 7,000 CIOs and other senior bank IT decision makers, and found "faster payments" is considered a basic deployment, though a substantial overall development since the rails can also power mobile services and connections to fintechs via open banking standards that are expected to follow PSD2—a European directive that will likely impact banks globally as they seek to build data-sharing connections with startups. This creates a backdrop for an increase in commercial bank IT spending to $17.1 billion in 2021 in North America, up from $3.3 billion this year, according to Ovum. And 40% of banks are expected to boost investment in ACH and wholesale payment platforms, with heavy investment in AI, mobile technology and open application programming interfaces. "The move to RTP infrastructures has its roots in consumer banking, but commercial banks will also be affected by the changes," said David Bannister, principal analyst at Ovum, in a release.

Payoneer draws investment from China: Cross-border payment company Payoneer has proven popular with fintech investors, having just drawn $180 from TCV to fund international payments for business clients. In a new round, China Broadband Capital, one of China's largest funds, has made an undisclosed investment in Payoneer. CBC joins Ping An among China-based investors in Payoneer, and will be used to accelerate the company's Chinese operations. "Payoneer is positioned better than any other payments company to help Chinese companies grow globally, as well as help non-Chinese companies sell into China," said Edward Tian, Chairman of CBC, in a release.

From the Web

Hope grows that a larger SEC crackdown on ICOs is coming — and soon
TechCrunch | Tue Dec 5, 2017 - More than $3 billion has been raised through so-called initial coin offerings so far in 2017. Yet while numerous of these have already proven to be good old-fashioned scams, regulators in Washington have remained relatively quiet aside from warning issuers that at least some coins sold in ICOs could be considered securities; publishing a statement saying celebrity endorsements of ICOs may be unlawful without appropriate disclosures around compensation; and bringing two cases against fraudulent coin offerings.

Technology advances cashless vending machines
Fox Business | Wed Dec 6, 2017 - The store of the future may not be a store at all: High-tech vending machines could potentially change the future of shopping. You don’t need to have cash on hand to make a purchase at ViaTouch’s new smart vending machines, called VICKI, and if you have questions the machines’ artificial intelligence can answer them for you. ViaTouch Media CEO Tom Murn told the FOX Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo, “You can use any payment you would like Maria, credit card, Apple Pay, or biometrics. So, you can sign up your thumb online, or your eye, and once you’re registered you just put your thumb on it, the door opens, you would pick up an item.”

French peer-to-peer payment app Lydia adds Apple Pay support
TechCrunch | Tue Dec 5, 2017 - A peer-to-peer payment app that works similarly to Venmo from startup Lydia in France now works with Apple Pay (a feature originally announced in July), making it possible to spend your balance from the app wherever MasterCard and Apple Pay are accepted. It’s a neat use of Apple Pay to make it possible to do mobile payments without requiring that a user have a credit card – and it can work for users who have an existing physical Lydia MasterCard, which the startup launched last year to make it possible for users to quickly pay with their balance without having to wait for inbound funds to pass the SEPA transfer process.

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