Fashion statement

I am just out of the Cartes show. A bit depressing, mostly because of the current circumstances and the number of “Absent exhibitors”. However, there werea few interesting highlights. One of them came in the Wearable and IoT conference track, in a presentation from Oberthur’s Olga Titova Candel about Wearable Payments for Fashion.

The main message of this presentation is that payment in wearables is going beyond basic plastic bands and special watches. The new trend is now that payment is being integrated into normal fashion accessories, like the Swatch deployment in China, or the integration of payment in the latest Jawbone UP4. These deployments are linked to a payment scheme: China Union Pay for Swatch, and American Express for Jawbone. Still, it is exciting to see mobile payment integrated into generic devices that you mostly get for other things (like, you like the watch, or you like the fitness tracking features and band design. Here, payment is just an extra feature, which is likely not the main reason for selecting the object.

From a sales point of view, this looks important to me. If payment is successful in these first deployments, it could lead the way to many more similar objects. As a longtime user of vision glasses, my glasses would be the perfect object for payment, as I wear them in almost all circumstances (plus, the form factor is interesting for fitting an antenna).

This does raise a few security-related questions:

  • Transfer. Such devices all come with some kind of enrollment process, for instance through the UP mobile application for Jawbone. This is nice, but the life of the object continues beyond enrollment. A fitness tracker may be given or sold to another person, and it is reasonable to expect that the payment feature will need to be disabled, and potentially reenabled later (and again).
  • Loan. A fitness tracker is very personal, a watch a bit less (my teenage daughter can borrow mine if she happens to like the design), and I am sure that some other payment-enabled wearables will be shared, at least in a limited community. I am happy to share my watch, but I want the payment feature to be disabled when that happens.
  • Steal or lose. Here, the problem is that these payment-enabled objects become an extension of our wallet. Losing one is very much like losing a wallet, and this may become dangerous, especially for people who only use the payment feature very occasionally. Also, checking that the person using such an object is legit will be difficult or at least different.

I don’t own any of these devices, so I don’t know how they handle that. Maybe that all these issues, and more, have already been sorted out technically. Yet, there is a human aspect to that will also need to be field-tested. The users need to be aware that they are wearing payment cards. Not much of an issue when you only have one payment-enabled object, but this could become a problem if we get more and more such objects.

But then, these are interesting problems, and I can’t wait to find my own payment-enabled fashion statement, and to see how this evolves in the near future.

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