A stylish new way to pay
Contactless payment devices are now breaking out of the bounds of pure functionality, and becoming not only high spec technological devices, but in some cases fashionable accessories.
June 1, 2012: Coldplay are at the peak of their fame. As the band’s followers fill the Emirates Stadium in north London for the headline gig of that summer’s tour, they’re each given a white wristband the size and shape of a small plastic watch. It does nothing until the band strikes up — when the audience’s wrists come alive with pulsing, polychromatic light, synched to the music by radio control. Wearable technology has just gone rock and roll.
January 7, 2013: Disney unveils the MagicBand, a wristborne device given away free to Disney Resort guests and passholders. Circuitry inside identifies each visitor and controls access to rides, hotel rooms, payments and other services. Part of a $1bn investment, the MagicBands become a huge success, with different premium designs available and a subculture of geeky admirers swapping lists of things to do — and not to do — with them. With more than 25 million issued, the wearable has become a key component of a complete commercial ecosystem — and an indispensable part of millions of visitors’ holiday experience.
January 17, 2019: Swatch announces, a new range of analogue fashion watches in the company’s distinctive eye‐catching style. The difference is that these watches contain SwatchPAY!, a contactless payment system that works exactly like contactless credit and debit cards.
In fact, when the purchaser buys the watch, they can securely load a virtual card, linked to an existing credit or debit card, to their SwatchPay! Watch. Using the SwatchPAY! App co‐developed by G+D Mobile Security, consumers can securely load the virtual card onto their SwatchPAY! Watches in all participating Swatch stores.
Shopping, transport and leisure activities can now be paid for with a flick of the wrist. Wearables enter the real world, not as a smartwatch or band, but as a sleek stylish item that does its job invisibly and effortlessly.
Using the same technology as battery‐less cards, the transactions take no energy at all from the watch itself. The new payment features have zero impact on the design and battery life of the watches and they’ll work even if the battery is flat. Plus, after purchase, the watch owner can deactivate or delete payment options from the watch at will.
It takes a special kind of trust to put your payment authority into a device that comes not from your bank or a major IT company. The combination of consumer experience with contactless payment and Swatch’s strong brand carries it off. The actual technology that guarantees the security of the system and allows it to become part of the global payment network, comes from Giesecke+Devrient Mobile Security Wearable Enablement Platform and embedded secure element.
The watches have been on sale in China, Swatch’s biggest market, since 2017: practical confirmation of G+D’s decades‐long involvement in mobile ID and data security.
There are other signs that wearables are escaping the obvious smart gadget niche. In 2019, while wearable functionality still revolves around health and notification, there’s a strong movement towards decorative and feminine options. The Kate Spade New York scallop watch in rose gold with a scallop‐patterned case does the usual smartwatch features of activity monitoring, weather notification and so on, but also includes an app that asks you questions about your dress and handbag color and when you’ll be out and about — changing its screen to accessorize.
Wearables enter the real world, not as a smartwatch or band, but as a sleek stylish item that does its job invisibly and effortlessly
Totwoo’s smart Clover gold and silver pendant likewise does walking and calorie burn tracking, UV exposure and so on, but also acts like a modern locket, storing pictures, videos and other files you may want close to you. It also has a messaging mode, whereby tapping it sends a billet doux to someone special. It comes with a jewelry box that charges the pendant when it’s put inside: good wearable technology fits into normal patterns of life.
With fashionable advances already being made, once 5G and the Internet of Things are become more widely available, what will the state of wearables look like? These two innovations are designed to support low‐power, long‐lived devices with services like tracking and data communication. “Wearables are good for location, authentication and sensing”, says London‐based futurist Adrian Mars, “and the technology is increasingly embeddable and long‐lived, giving it a ‘fit and forget’ aspect.” There won’t be a huge divergence from the same functions wearables carry out at now, he says, but in an increasingly ubiquitous and flexible way. “Your high‐value personal items can react to leaving your possession unexpectedly, alerting you to their loss or reporting their progress if stolen. Health and environmental monitoring could spread to clothing and away from the wristband model, and become an option in all manner of items.” But, he cautions, smart clothing may take longer to arrive. “It’s a hard life. You have to wash clothes, and they wear out quickly. And who really wants to recharge a sock?”.
With fashionable advances already being made, once 5G and the Internet of Things are become more widely available, what will the state of wearables look like?
With consumers increasingly confident in the trustworthiness and practicality of wearable technology, and with mobile payment systems in general, the key is to find the niche where a demographic fits with a technology — and then not worry about the technology. It’s mature and available to designers and product specifiers.
The world of wearables runs on imagination and style. Bring those, and the details will be taken care of.
Find out more here.