A decade ago the idea of wearable technology was the stuff of science fiction. Today it is becoming a reality. How many people received a Fitbit, Jawbone or Vivofit in their Christmas stocking to monitor activity and fitness?
A recent report from Juniper Research estimated that retail revenue from wearable technology could reach as much as US$19 billion by 2018, up from US$1.4 billion in 2013.
Wearable devices appear capable of changing not only how we look after ourselves through various fitness applications but also how we pay for things. Payment is the next frontier and the central focus is around smart watches like the current Samsung Galaxy Gear or the rapidly developing Apple Watch which is expected to launch later this year.
If you think your smartphone will be your next wallet, the wallet you have after that will probably be sitting on your wrist, as contactless communication technology combines with the ingenuity of device designers.
Although Google recently announced it was halting the development of its Google Glass project, smartwatch and other wearable technologies are already being trialled for making payments, combining biometric information for authentication with the convenience of wearables.
In Canada technology company Nymi has developed a wristband that uses a person’s heartbeat for identification. Nymi has already announced a pilot program for biometrically authenticated payments in Canada through local bank RBC and Mastercard.
In the UK Nationwide Building society has launched an app where members can check their balances at the touch of a button. It is accessible on devices such as a 150-pound LG “G” smartwatch.
Payments company PayPal has sped up its adoption of wearable devices and supports the Pebble, Android Wear and Samsung Gear smartwatch platforms. PayPal sees a future with seamless payment experiences, combining data with location to enhance the notifications process.
In other examples of wearable payments, Singapore consumers can purchase smartwatches and wristbands under the Sharkey brand, which uses Near Field Communication to initiate payments after connecting to an Android or iPhone mobile terminal through Bluetooth technology.
Created by local company Watchdata Technologies, the Sharkey is partnering with groups like EZ-Link, EMKA Group and China UnionPay to provide contactless payments.
The technology is not just being used in the banking industry. Entertainment giant Disney is rolling out its payment-capable MagicBands that also function as theme park passes and hotel keys.
With Google Glass now out of development, the big mover in 2015 for wearable technology will be the launch of the Apple Watch.
Apple Watch will have the new payments protocol Apple Pay installed and is likely to take wearable payments technology to the next level, with many banks already participating in Apple Pay.
The Apple Watch is considered Apple’s most ambitious project yet. By combining personal technology with payment convenience, the company may revolutionise payments and open up new opportunities for entrepreneurs.
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