Wearable Tech World Feature Article
April 30, 2013

Where Mobile Payment and Wearable Technologies Meet

While discussions of wearable technology inevitably lead to Google Glasses, the prototype “smart” glasses Google plans to debut this year, it’s easy to forget that the horizons of wearable technology are much broader than that.

The medical industry is considered the greatest frontier for medical technology. Wearable devices that can monitor vital signs, fitness and even things like blood sugar are expected to be the norm in the future. More complex wearable technology – such as an artificial pancreas for diabetics – are already in testing phases.

But for the vast majority of us, wearable technology might come in simpler form, like a wrist band. So far, we’ve seen hints of wrist bands that can show us text messages while we’re driving, and t-shirts that can sense when there is Wi-Fi available.

But for Jack Dorsey, chief executive of the mobile payment system Square and a co-founder of Twitter, wearable technology may naturally intersect with the mobile payment industry. Square already produces a mobile wallet technology that allows users to pay for purchases with their smartphones or iPads. Users simply download the Square Wallet application to their phones, link the app to their credit or debit cards, and then use the app to pay at the register. The app produces the authorized user’s photo at the point of sale, so merchants can be sure the transaction is secure.

But what if we could skip even the step of pulling out the phone? Dorsey recently told The New York Times that he sees an opportunity in the future for a wrist band to work with Square, allowing consumers to pay even faster.

Dorsey told The New York Times’ Brian Chen that he believes devices that wrap around the wrist, like smartwatches or exercise bands, might be the future, since they are more natural (noting that he couldn’t imagine his mother ever choosing to wear Google Glasses).

Chen writes that the conversation hinted that Square is considering a payment app for a smart watch, perhaps the smart watch from Apple that the industry is rumoring to be in development, or the Pebble e-paper watch that works with a variety of apps.

Beyond this, there is still plenty of room for innovation in smart payment technology. Location-based technologies can be utilized to let food merchants know you’re coming. For example, if you place the same coffee order each time you enter a coffee shop, if the merchant knows you’re coming, your coffee could be ready for you by the time you get to the front of the line. Imagine being able to place an order from your wrist band to your favorite sandwich shop, pay for it in advance and be able to simply pick it up at the appointed time.

So while Google Glasses may be in the near future of very few people – the cost and the usability issues may put many consumers off for a while – in the next few years, it may be all about the wrist band. Dick Tracy would be proud.




Edited by Alisen Downey




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