News Feature | March 23, 2017

Will Paying By Sunglasses Be The New Contactless Payment Solution?

Christine Kern

By Christine Kern, contributing writer


Visa invests in pilot program for payment-enabled sunglasses.

Visa has unveiled a new prototype of payment-enabled sunglasses recently at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas and at the Quiksilver Pro and Roxy Pro surf competitions in Gold Coast, Australia, according to CNBC.  They plan to roll out a pilot of the new technology, though the glasses are not yet available to the public.

“It ties back to our tagline of everywhere you want to be,” explained chief brand and innovation marketing officer at Visa Chris Curtin. “without it it’s hard for us to fulfill our tagline. Our view is we take form factors that you don’t expect to be payment-enabled like sunglasses or maybe like a ring and expose to the market that maybe it can be.”

The WaveShades sunglasses are equipped with a tiny chip that works when it is tapped to a Visa near field communication (NFC) enabled terminal. Visa has also experimented with other wearable payment solutions, including payment-enabled rings and wristbands, in the past. The WaveShades have been designed through a collaboration between Visa, sunglasses manufacturer Local Supply and Australian startup Inamo, which is providing the payment chip in the arm of the accessory to enable the payments to take place.

“The WaveShades utilize the same payments platform previously developed for the Inamo Curl, which was launched in December 2016,” Inamo says. “The Curl is a multi-functional, waterproof wearable that can be attached discreetly and securely to most watch bands and fitness bands, so the wearer can instantly enjoy the freedom and convenience of tap-and-go payments.”

The glasses were being tested at the surfing event, and if payment-enabled sunglasses were appropriate anywhere, it would be on the beach. Of course, to complete the transaction, the wearer does have to remove the sunglasses to tap them against the NFC terminal.

“The financial services environment is evolving at an unprecedented pace, which is exemplified by consumers’ changing relationship with payments,” explained Frederique Covington, Visa’s senior vice president of marketing for Asia Pacific.

This pilot, he continued, “is all about showing Australians that innovation in how we pay can make their lives simpler and everyday experiences seamless and rewarding.”

According to The Verge, the Visa sunglasses will serve as a preloaded contactless payment card not a credit card. While no plans for general release or suggestions of any pricing details are yet available, Visa is reportedly talking to various brands and banks to assess potential for backing of the new technology.