A wearable opportunity
Wearables have been around for decades, well two decades to be more precise. Bluetooth started the ball rolling in the early 2000s. Not long after, the NFC (near field communication) chip opened up new possibilities for wearables. But technology seemed to always be put before design – it was the data you wanted to show your mates, never your wearable. Fast forward to 2010 and Master Jeweler, Founder and CEO of K-pay, Nigel Townsend, spotted an opportunity to combine jewelry – something people wear daily – and technology.
“There were some big challenges to overcome when we started K-pay,” says Nigel. “We wanted to bring something different to what was already a disruptive market. With my background, I wanted to embed NFC chips into metal jewelry, something the chip manufacturers told us was impossible since NFC chips don’t like metals. But we persevered, and by creating the designs and building the prototypes, we proved it was possible. With our knowledge, we secured our territory in NFC wearables with a granted patent portfolio.”
Fashion meets tech
“Back then wearables were practical, not design-led,” says Fiona, K-pay’s Co-Founder Operations Director. “And they were largely targeted towards men. There was a gap in the market and we exploited it by merging the worlds of fashion and wearable technology. Bringing style to the market by giving people something they’d want to wear on a daily basis, in the same way you do with jewelry. We wanted to simplify a person’s daily life, adding speed, convenience and safety.”
“At the same time, exciting things began happening in the market,” continues Nigel. “Giants like Apple and Samsung were investing heavily in the market and Barclays Bank – a partner of ours at the time – were all pushing wearable payment technology to customers for use on their homegrown systems, which was driving public interest. While working directly with Barclays Bank, we still needed a partner who could provide a secure and scalable NFC payments platform, long-term to a vast number of banks. And that partner was Fidesmo.”
Highly secure payments
The Fidesmo platform supports tokenization, which is the most secure way to manage contactless payments. Essentially, this replaces a customer’s PAN-number with a secure string of randomly generated numbers for every wearable. Rather than the actual card PAN-number being transferred, it’s the unique token for the wearable that is in transit. This extra layer of security greatly reduces the threat of fraudulent activity.
“Getting access to payment providers and being able to guarantee security for customers is essential for an OEM like ours,” explains Fiona. “When you join the Fidesmo platform you instantly get access to both Mastercard and Visa payments, which isn’t possible with any other token requestor for passive wearables. They also have European and Russian banks on their platform and can easily onboard other transaction services, such as ticketing – that’s an enormous opportunity. We’ve looked at the public transport systems in two major cities and crunched the numbers. There are around 6.3 billion individual journeys made annually in New York and London. If a commuter’s wallet or ticket was on their wrist rather than in their pocket or handbag, travelling would be quicker, safer and more convenient for them.”
Smooth backend, for a smooth front end
“The payment ecosystem is also important,” says Nigel. “It’s the foundation that a service is built on. Once you’re a part of the Fidesmo ecosystem you get a lot of support. They interact with chip manufacturers to ensure integration into the platform is successful and they handle certification and regulatory requirements with banks, authorities, and any other payment providers. It’s easy to do business with them, which is what you want as an OEM. We’re long-term partners with an innovative approach who share ideas.
“Ultimately we’re both working towards the same thing. We want to provide consumers with a broad choice of payment options and a smooth payment experience. When a user taps their wearable next to a card reader, they’re not interested in what happens behind the scenes – the tokens, certificates, you name it, they just want to pay and move on. And it’s the same when they connect their card to a wearable via our site. It should just work, and Fidesmo shares that philosophy.”
Like most things digital, contactless transactions have been heavily impacted by the pandemic, as people look for new ways of using digital technology for safer and quicker ways to pay.
“We’ve seen a huge acceleration in the contactless payments market,” explains Nigel. “Here in the UK, it’s as if we’re now at the point we expected to be in five years’ time and in the U.S. it’s like they’ve moved ten years ahead. Another important factor in adoption in the UK is the raising of the maximum contactless payment limit, which is being introduced this October. It’s more than doubling from £45 to £100, allowing people to pay for a tank of fuel or their weekly shop using contactless. So, we expect to see exponential growth, yet again.”
The wow factor
“And we can’t forget the wow factor,” points out Fiona. “Ever since we started manufacturing our wearables there’s been a wow factor. That’s the response you get from a waiter, cashier, or somebody in the queue when you pay using one of our wearables with Fidesmo technology. They can’t believe that is a bracelet, pendant or key fob that’s making the payment so quickly and easily. It’s an amazing route to sales– user to new user – as seeing is believing.”
Timeless design, tomorrow’s technology
“Exactly, and just like any other piece of jewelry, our wearables are designed to last for many years – aesthetically and technically,” interjects Nigel. “But unlike many other wearables, there’s no battery and no device updates to worry about. The NFC chip doesn’t need power. With that said, we follow the latest fashion trends and design our wearables to make an impact – our designer has won the UK 3D Designer of the Year at the Goldsmith’s Awards, three years running.”
“It’s as we mentioned earlier,” concludes Fiona. “We design and manufacture eye-catching wearables. Fidesmo develops the technology that delivers secure and instant payments and provides the network and platform that payment providers trust and want to join. Together we deliver an amazing product and service. It’s the perfect combination of timeless style and cutting-edge tech”.