Optus to bring mobile payments to smartwatches

Proof of concept lets users tap watches against Visa payWave terminals

Cash by Optus will soon support smartwatches linked to Android and Apple mobile phones. Credit: Optus

Cash by Optus will soon support smartwatches linked to Android and Apple mobile phones. Credit: Optus

Optus will extend its mobile payments app to smartwatches and other wearable devices, the telco said today.

The wearable payment capability, planned for release later this year, builds on the Cash by Optus app released in November for Android smartphones.

That app uses Near Field Communications (NFC) technology to make sub-$100 payments at retailers that support Visa payWave contactless payments.

While the app currently relies on an NFC-enabled SIM card from Optus, the proof of concept announced today would let customers tap their wearable, linked to an Android or Apple handset, against a Visa payWave reader to pay.

Payments can be made using only the wearable without the linked phone nearby, Optus said. However, when they are in close range, the connected watch and smartphone can sync account balance and transaction details by Bluetooth, it said.

A key benefit to the new approach is support for Apple devices, said Optus mobile marketing vice president, Ben White.

“The biggest frustration [with the existing smartphone app] came from our iPhone customers who wanted to try Cash by Optus, but didn’t have a compatible phone,” he said. “That’s why we’re developing this wearable technology, which is designed to work on both Apple and Android smartphones.”

“We see huge opportunities in the wearable market by bringing new experiences to our customers through products that combine trusted technology with lifestyle benefits. Optus’ aim is to bring contactless payments to our entire customer base across lots of platforms.”

Cash by Optus works like a Visa prepaid debit card. Customers can load up to $500 at a time and make sub-$100 contactless payments. Customers must have an Optus mobile service on a monthly plan and – for the existing version of the app – one of 110 compatible Android devices.

Mobile payments is an increasingly competitive space, with banks, telcos, tech companies and credit card companies all developing mobile digital wallet services.

St George Bank is one other big Australian company exploring payments using wearable devices, including smartwatches equipped with secured NFC elements. The bank has a mobile banking app for some Sony and Samsung smartwatches that allows customers to quickly view their balance and find ATM locations.

“What we find is people don’t want to take anything out of their pocket now,” St George CIO Dhiren Kulkarni said in an interview last year. “If they could pay through their smartwatch, then they would do that.”

Adam Bender covers telco and enterprise tech issues for Computerworld and is the author of dystopian sci-fi novels We, The Watched and Divided We Fall. Follow him on Twitter: @WatchAdam

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

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