Wearables have made a major breakthrough in the last two years. I believe that in several sectors including payments they are now mainstream technology rather than a minor tributary.
Not long ago, the term ‘wearables’ would draw blank looks from nearly everyone. But now it is associated with brands such as Apple, Barclays Bpay, the Fitbit, the Jawbone and many others. These have taken wearable devices into the everyday lives of many of us and made millions of others aware of the trend so that they can now engage in discussions about them. This is no longer only the niche world of techies and geeks.
The Apple Watch and Bpay have certainly taken wearables forward in the payments sector, with highly practical, high potential products backed by major brands and marketing investment.
Payments technology is, I believe, still a market with vast unfulfilled potential for both innovation and growth. I feel that general prepaid, specialist travel cards and even the first contactless payment devices weren’t delivering to their potential that I was motivated to develop my own product. The underlying philosophy always has to be to put the user first and think about what they really want to achieve, and the best way of doing so. In short, we didn’t set out to produce a wearable product – but the concept of the ring evolved from considering that process.
The reality is wearables not only have to serve a desired purpose but also be highly practical for users to wear and keep on them for a prolonged period.
I’m sure that more devices will be developed as innovators identify further ways to meet consumers’ needs and demand is likely to increase as the trend for “frictionless payment” continues. There has been much work on optimising the shopping basket but far less on the payments side. Any new payment innovation that allows a quicker, easier payment for the user will be an enhancement. Wearables certainly facilitate this in physical locations – though it’s imperative that the experience is joined up – across hardware, software and the payments programme itself.
Phil Campbell is the founder of Kerv, an 'Internet of things' payments technology startup in London and the creator of the Kerv ring.