Both Apple and Samsung have their own NFC-based payment systems, activated by tapping a phone or smartwatch to a card reader or terminal. Now, Sydney startup Inamo has developed the Curl, a wearable, waterproof device containing a prepaid NFC chip that can bring tap-and-go payments to any regular watch, fitness tracker or piece of jewelry.
The Apple Watch 2 is currently the only major smartwatch that's both waterproof and supports NFC payments, so for those who don't feel like forking out over US$370, the Curl could be a decent, affordable way to bring that functionality to an existing watch.
A rubber case keeps water away from the NFC chip buried inside, and two flexible loops attach the Curl to the band of a watch, fitness tracker, or other items like necklaces and keyrings. The waterproof casing means users can wear it in the surf or pool, without worrying about the whereabouts of their wallet or phone back on dry land.
User funds are topped up through an app or online account, with the Curl essentially acting like a debit card. Making a payment works like a regular NFC system, allowing the user to hold the Curl over the top of a machine that accepts VISA Paywave for an instant transaction, with the option to require a PIN to authorize purchases over $100.
Lost or stolen Curls can be locked or canceled, and the account can also be used to make secure purchases online, with a debit card-style 16-digit account number and three-digit security code.
"Currently consumers are shackled to their phones, wallets or payment cards, and that doesn't suit people who want to do activities such as run, swim, or cycle," says Peter Colbert, CEO and founder of Inamo. "The Curl works just like your credit or debit card which means you can trust it to work. As an added benefit, using the Curl for payments is faster and more convenient than digital mobile payments."
Beyond payments, the company plans to extend the Curl's functionality over the next 18 months into public transport systems, building access, festival tickets and gym memberships.
Although it works with VISA Paywave devices around the world, Inamo says Curl preorders are currently only available to residents of Australia. The device will cost AU$20, plus a regular monthly account fee of $5, and the company says the first allotment of the Curl will be available in January 2017.