Kerv smart ring lets you pay with a sim­ple wave of your hand

U.K. in­no­va­tor be­hind con­tact­less check­out de­vice

Toronto Star - - BUSINESS -

If your wal­let weighs you down, you might want to try a smart ring.

That is the view of Philip Camp­bell, founder of Lon­don-based startup Kerv, whose firm has pro­duced a smooth, shiny piece of wearable tech that aims to tap into the grow­ing mar­ket for con­tact­less pay­ments.

The Kerv ring uses Near Field Com­mu­ni­ca­tion (NFC) to let users make pay­ments of up to £30 ($60) by sim­ply wav­ing your hand at shop check­outs and public trans­port bar­ri­ers, much like con­tact­less credit or debit cards. It doesn’t need charg­ing nor does it need to be paired with a smart­phone.

Kerv is not the only wearable de­vice with pay­ment func­tion­al­ity — NFC-en­abled smart­watches such as Ap­ple Watch and wrist­bands such as Bar­clay­card’s BPay also let you pay for goods — but it is the first pay­ment ring. Camp­bell sees flaws in ri­val de­vices, though, de­scrib­ing them as ei­ther “eye-wa­ter­ingly ex­pen­sive” or “thor­oughly unattrac­tive.”

Camp­bell be­gan build­ing the Kerv ring while run­ning a mar­ket­ing agency that serves the pay­ments in­dus­try.

“We were be­ing asked to pro­mote pay­ment prod­ucts where the user was seen as not very im­por­tant or the tech­nol­ogy wasn’t there,” he said. “We just got frus­trated and de­cided to do it bet­ter our­selves.”

The pro­ject is seek­ing fund­ing through crowd­fund­ing site Kick­starter, rais­ing more than half of its £77,000 tar­get within five days at the time of writ­ing.

The idea was spurred by the fact that most of Europe will ac­cept con­tact­less pay­ments by 2020, as Visa and Mastercard man­date re­tail­ers to up­grade their point-of-sale ter­mi­nals. The U.S. lags be­hind with pay­ments tech­nol­ogy, only just launch­ing chip and pin this year.

“The abil­ity to pay for public trans­port is the ap­pli­ca­tion most likely to drive adop­tion,” Save­rio Romeo, a wearable tech­nol­ogy an­a­lyst at Beecham Re­search, said.

He added that the up­per price limit for con­tact­less pay­ments will limit its use — as will the re­liance on con­tact­less in­fra­struc­ture, cur­rently con­cen­trated in cities.

Users need to set up an ac­count with Kerv to use it as a dig­i­tal wal­let — much like pre­pay credit cards or Lon­don’s Oys­ter travel card sys­tem. Link­ing Kerv to another bank ac­count al­lows for au­to­matic top-ups. Kerv takes a small fee with each trans­ac­tion, paid by the mer­chant — and it’s ac­cepted wher­ever MasterCard is.

Looks-wise, the ring is sim­ple and sleek, made from the same ma­te­rial used to craft ce­ramic den­tal crowns. The ma­te­rial was cho­sen be­cause it doesn’t in­ter­fere with the small elec­tro­mag­netic field that pow­ers the con­tact­less func­tion­al­ity. The ring is also wa­ter­proof, hy­poal­ler­genic, scratch-re­sis­tant and comes in a range of sizes.

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