The age of Google Glass may be over, but 2015 saw wearable technology emerge in more subtle forms such as watches, rings and other items that appear more trendy than geeky. The payments industry is working to make the most of this fashionable trend.
Apple Watch Debuts
The Apple Watch debuted in April as the first mainstream smartwatch to treat payments as a marketable feature. Popular predecessors like the Pebble or the Moto 360 did not have Near Field Communication hardware built-in.
From Free to Fee
Many wristband-based payment options are given out for free, but Barclaycard added a pricetag to its previously free bPay band in June. At £24.99 it's still much less expensive than an Apple Watch, of course.
Blocks Wearables doesn't assume its audience wants NFC, but it doesn't rule it out either. Its modular smartwatch concept lets consumers choose whether the product comes with NFC payment capabilities, GPS, biometric sensors or a range of other wearable technologies.
Hiding in Plain Sight
MasterCard's Internet of Things initiative is about putting payment security tools such as encryption, tokenization and biometric authentication into items that don't look like payment products. Its partners include General Motors, jewelry company Ringly and designer Adam Selman.
Banks and tech companies aren't in the business of fashion design, so more of them are turning to fashion industry for its expertise. One result of this collaboration is the "small change" watch (pictured) developed through Visa Europe's recent collaboration with Central Saint Martins College.
Put a Ring on It
The founder of Kerv, a London-based startup designing a payment-enabled ring, wants its product to be neither eye-wateringly expensive nor thoroughly unattractive. The company met its Kickstarter goal in October and plans to ship rings to backers in 2016.
Fitness Meets Finance
Fitness trackers are among the most prominent wearable technologies in use today. Intuit is drawing inspiration from this trend in the design of its GoPayment Sales Goal Tracker app for small businesses. Just as health nuts like to track their calories burned, Intuit's app can show hourly, daily and weekly progress toward sales goals.
As the pandemic has stretched on further into 2020, with more lockdowns and economic disruption predicted heading into the fall and winter, continuing to offer fee waivers has not always proved financially viable.
The conversation around advancing the distribution and use of digital currency gets a boost every time the banking system stubs its toe. And there have been many recent examples of financial system problems to point to.
Mastercard is making the much-admired Apple Card-like experience—nearly instant access to a payment card issued on the spot through a mobile device—available through mainstream and digital card processors.
Burger King envisions a future in which the only thing its patrons will touch is their actual food, a redesign acknowledging 2020’s emergency workarounds have permanently shifted how people engage businesses and gained habits that go beyond their fear of spreading germs.
As the Federal Reserve's FedNow instant payments and settlement system enters into testing and use-case development phases, an emphasis on speed to market, ubiquity and compatibility with other systems remains in the forefront.