Innovation

Winter Olympics: Visa debuts limited edition mobile payment wearables in PyeongChang

IoT will be a component of the Winter Olympics, with Visa introducing three NFC-enabled wearable payment devices for athletes and fans.

Mobile payment wearables and the Internet of Things will be a crucial part of the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang in South Korea.

IoT devices are connected devices, and include everything from mobile payment wearables to smart devices and sensors on manufacturing equipment. IoT devices can measure, store, and transmit information, and the data that is collected is often referred to as big data.

Visa has developed three Near Field Communication (NFC)-enabled wearable payment products for the Winter Olympics: A commemorative sticker, a pair of gloves, and an Olympic pin. Visa teamed up with Lotte Card, the financial arm of the South Korean-based retail giant Lotte Department Store to produce these new pre-paid payment wearables.

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Visa's mobile payment gloves.

Image: Visa

"We're looking forward to seeing the reaction and adoption from fans and athletes in South Korea. While we can't disclose the number of devices that have been produced and sold thus far, each wearable is a limited edition item so they will be highly coveted on-the-ground at the Games," said a Visa spokesperson.

SEE: Internet of Things policy (Tech Pro Research)

Greg Kahn, CEO of the IoT Consortium, said the Olympics is a showcase for new technology and what can be done in terms of high-speed internet in smart cities and what we can look for in wearables.

"We always know that the Olympics are somewhat aspirational. Everybody dreams of being an Olympian of some sort. And so it's a great showcase from a technology standpoint to think about what can we look forward to as a society and how could it seamlessly fit into our lives and make us better athletes and better individuals," Kahn said.

Kahn pointed out that this isn't the first time Visa has used mobile payment devices at the Olympics, but it is the first time for the Winter Olympics.

In 2016, Visa tested NFC-enabled wearables at the Rio Olympic Games. This included a rubber bracelet tested by 3,000 fans, and a ring that 45 Visa-sponsored Olympic athletes wore, according to TechRepublic sister site ZDNet.

South Korea is such a tech-forward market that it's the ideal place for Visa to offer mobile payment wearables, said Ramon Llamas, research manager for the International Data Corp.'s wearables team.

SEE: How wearable tech will help Winter Olympic athletes skate faster and stay warm (TechRepublic)

The question remains as to whether Visa will be able to sustain the momentum from the Winter Olympics and create interest in NFC-enabled devices in the mainstream market in the US and elsewhere, he said.

"I don't think it's going to move the needle significantly," Llamas said.

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Visa Lotte Card wearable pin for mobile payments.

Image: Visa

Here are more details on each of the three devices:

  • Commemorative Olympic Pin. Inspired by the tradition of collecting commemorative pins at the Olympic Games, there are four different lapel pins featuring custom PyeongChang 2018 designs to offer a payment-enabled collectable for fans and athletes to utilize on-site.
  • Payment-enabled gloves. The average temperature in PyeongChang during the games will be - 4.8°C, so gloves will be a must-have. The gloves contain a dual interface chip housed with a contactless antenna capable of completing purchases throughout official Olympic venues with compatible readers globally.
  • Stickers. With a thin and flexible adhesive design and an embedded dual interface NFC-chip and antenna, these micro-tags can be attached to almost anything to make seamless payments. The collection includes eight distinct designs including Soohorang, which is the official PyeongChang 2018 mascot, and the Korean flag.
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Visa Lotte Card wearable sticker for mobile payments.

Image: Visa

The wearable stickers and commemorative Olympics pins are currently available for purchase at Lotte Card customer centers and online through www.lottecard.co.kr. During the Games, all three wearable devices will be available for purchase in Visa vending machines located at the Official Olympic Superstores at the Gangneung Olympic Park and PyeongChang Olympic Plaza. The wearable stickers will also be available at Lotte Card and Visa Customer Centers. The devices will remain on sale until the end of March, after both the Olympic and Paralympic Games have concluded.

All three wearable devices can be used at any of 1,000 terminals throughout the Olympic venues. Globally, the devices can also be used at any merchant with a qVSDC terminal that is EMV Visa contactless enabled.

To use the devices, the wearer can tap or bring the wearable near any NFC-enabled terminal or reader and the secured microchip and antenna embedded within the device will allow a contactless payment to be completed. The wearables act like a pre-paid card; at the time of purchase, the consumer will choose the monetary denomination to load onto the card before making the payment. The wearables are non-personalized and non-reloadable.

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About Teena Maddox

Teena Maddox is a Senior Writer at TechRepublic, covering hardware devices, IoT, smart cities and wearables. She ties together the style and substance of tech. Teena has spent 20-plus years writing business and features for publications including Peo...

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