Barclaycard gives customers one on the wrist
Contactless payments have been trying to get off the ground for a while now. While integration into mobile phones is the key driver for most – take a look at the number of mobile wallets available on any Android phone – a lack of NFC in older devices and iPhones means that penetration is probably not going to come about through mobile alone. Contactless cards have also done well, but the difference between how many people own them and how many pay using contactless is still wide.
But, Barclaycard may well have the answer in another form, or at least a wonderful way to segue into the future of payments: its bPay Band.
Barclaycard’s bPay Band has been brought in for use during London Pride and the series of British Summer Time festivals that take place in Hyde Park across June and July. At the moment users request one for free, attach their card to it and load it up with money so they can spend it at any NFC terminal. During Pride and BST, bPay Band users also got a raft of other benefits for using it, and Barclaycard says that those who continue to use the bPay Band will receive other benefits after the events have run their course.
While this certainly sounds more like a gimmick for a few consumer events than a viable platform for payments, the bPay Band does something that no other contactless payment method has managed to do yet – it makes it an event.
Paying with the bPay Band feels like you’re making a payment, doing something different. It goes against what we all think of making payments invisible, but in making it visible, it makes it far easier to understand how this technology benefits the user when they see it in action and use it themselves. It’s also far speedier during those incredibly-long festival pub and food queues, and as every stall at BST had an NFC-enabled Chip & PIN reader, queues go down pretty quickly.
And, having seen one in practice a few times last weekend at BST, it’s clear to see that festival goers were certainly impressed by just how easy it is to make payments with a bPay Band. It means there’s no need to open a wallet, or fumble for your phone. If you’re carrying things or holding something in your hand, it makes it really simple to make a payment too.
While even Barclaycard don’t acknowledge this as the future, bPay Band is a step towards what will come in time. It’s really easy to see how smartwatches could be the next medium for payments. You wouldn’t need a mobile wallet attached to it as the app-based smartwatch will also be a thing of the past if Android Wear takes off. Instead, having an NFC chip embedded into the watch for instant payments from a pre-approved card (or direct from a bank account) will be how we make payments.
Perhaps it’s time to stop looking at the mobile wallet space and think about the watch wallet space now.