Wirecard targets summer launch for its wrist-worn digital wallet

Last month, Wirecard unveiled a wristband device that functioned like a digital wallet, storing credit cards, ID cards and even tickets on the end of your arm. The Smart Band was only a prototype, but if all goes as planned, the German payments company will start selling a commercial version of the device this summer in Europe, Wirecard told me in a recent interview.

Given that the Apple Watch will go on sale in April, Wirecard shortly afterwards could have an alternate wearable on the market that works with a digital wallet technology other than [company]Apple[/company] Pay. And given Apple Pay won’t be available in Europe until sometime later year, a wrist-worn contactless payments technology might actually be available to Android devices before they’re available to iOS users.

Wirecard Smart Band

Wirecard’s Smart Band uses a Google-backed technology called Host Card Emulation (HCE) to securely store and transfer credit card credentials to and from a smartphone. A near field communications chip in the band then communicates with a point-of-sale terminal, working at the same places that accept Apple Pay and [company]Google[/company] Wallet.

While Smart Band technically could be a way of putting Google Wallet in a wristband, Wirecard EVP of Mobile Services Joern Leogrand said that the company isn’t in any talks with Google and doesn’t have plans to do so. Rather it wants to use Smart Band to fuel transactions on its own digital billfold, he said, as well as the mobile wallets of its partners.

Wirecard dons many hats when it comes it finance. It builds white-label technology for other companies — for instance, it’s the brains behind the mobile payments services for [company]Telefónica[/company], [company]Vodafone[/company] and [company]Deutsche Telekom[/company] — while it also runs a consumer-facing bank that issues its own prepaid cards and a peer-to-peer payments network similar to PayPal’s.

Wirecard plans to make the make Smart Band available to its own customers and partners first. The first commercial Smart Band is under development and could be available to its own cardholders in Europe by this summer, Leogrand said. Wirecard will next offering it to its white label partners, Leogrand said. Carriers like Telefónica could use the wearable breathe life into their suffering mobile payment services.

But because of HCE, which virtualizes the secure smart card used in any mobile payments service, the gadget wouldn’t necessarily be tied to a specific carrier or device. Anyone who works with Wirecard for payment processing could use the band as an extension of their mobile apps.

“It’s not set in stone how we launch the Smart Band,” Leogrand said. “We’re in the very early stages of this, and we’re open to ideas.”

The end goal is to license its technology and sell its payments processing services to other hardware makers, Leogrand said. While the Smart Band prototype included some basic fitness tracking features, that kind of technology is well outside of Wirecard’s core area of expertise. Smart Band’s payments tech would be most useful if it were integrated into other multi-purpose wearables. That could mean high-end smart watches, but also cheaper sub-$100 fitness bands, Leogrand said.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EydIoYdbS4A]

If you were hoping to test out the Smart Band in the U.S., then you’ll likely be disappointed. Until Wirecard signs some big hardware deal, the device will only be available in Europe (though European cardholders should be able to make payments on U.S. NFC terminals). Wirecard doesn’t have a banking license in the U.S.

Swarovski crystals make this Misfit fitness tracker sparkle

Most fitness trackers are meant to blend in, but if you’d like your wearable to stand out, Misfit has covered its flagship Shine tracker with a giant Swarovski crystal.

There’s one major new feature in the new trackers in the Swarovski Shine Collection. If you get the Shine covered with a purple Swarovski crystal, it’s actually hiding a solar panel that means the tracker never needs a battery replacement. The solar-powered tracker uses the Swarovski crystal to refract light directly onto the solar cell, according to Misfit. (If you get the Shine with a clear crystal, it will still need a battery replacement after four months.)

2253-8dd884de0669ee4e07c8673f031f19bc

[company]Misfit[/company] plans to sell the Swarovski Shines in a set that includes two accessories. The accessories are nice: You can choose from a bracelet covered in smaller crystals, a ropey band, and several pendants that allow the Shine to be worn as a necklace. The accessories will be compatible with the standard Shine and will be sold separately, too.

swarov_assets_1500x1030_set_slake_gray_1_1024x1024

A package with a Shine and accessories will cost between $170 and $250 when it goes on sale later this spring. Pre-orders are available now. The normal Shine, which costs $100, comes in 10 colors when it’s not covered in glass cut to look like diamonds. Misfit also sells a $50 fitness tracker, the plastic-covered Flash.

Sure, Swarovski’s glittery look might be too garish for some, but that’s fashion: Choices that work for some people will be a non-starter for others. For instance, Misfit’s rival Fitbit has a partnership with Tory Burch that hides its trackers inside bangles and jewelry. The question is when savvy consumers stop thinking of these kind of fashion collaborations as styled-up fitness trackers and instead consider them to be jewelry with a little bit of connectivity.

ces-2015-3

Lenovo is preparing a smart bracelet of its own

Lenovo-Smartband

It seems as if every major computer company wants to make its own wearable bracelet. The latest to jump into the emerging market is Lenovo, which quietly published a product page for a smart band this weekend. There aren’t many details available, but the device — charmingly named the Smartband SW-B100 — has a small screen and promises to track exercise and sleep. It can also be able to be used to unlock a mobile device and display notifications, and it should work with both Android and iOS. Lenovo hasn’t announced a price or U.S. availability yet, but Android Police spotted that it’s been approved by the FCC.