Kerv smart ring lets you pay with a simple wave of your hand
U.K. innovator behind contactless checkout device
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.