Living with credit, New products

With chip-enabled sunglasses, it’s paid with the shades

Jay MacDonald

Ever notice how sometimes when you’re searching for a solution, the answer is as plain as the nose on your face?

In Visa’s case, that “oh-duh!” moment was literally resting on the nose – and not just one but millions of sunburnt schnozzolas worldwide.

In fact, given the way we’ve rather randomly migrated credit card payments from that plastic card in your wallet to wristbands, key fobs, mini gym-bag tags, rings and phones, it must seem a tad embarrassing to have overlooked the most obvious and essential take-along to outdoor concerts and sporting events: sunglasses.

Note the EMV chip on the arm of the Visa WaveShades. That chip allows easy payments at contactless terminals.

But if recent test marketing by Down Under is any indication, it won’t be long before Burning Man, Kentucky Derby, Super Bowl and NASCAR fans will be sporting the world’s first sunglasses that pay their own way: the chip-loaded Visa WaveShades.

Visa recently handed out 150 free pairs of WaveShades, some preloaded with $50, at Australia’s St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival in Adelaide, Brisbane, Fremantle, Melbourne and Sydney. Once you load the chip in the shade’s arm from an online account, you’re set to use it as a prepaid contactless card.

AU Review reporter Larry Heath, who managed to snag a pair, said festival-goers and concert vendors alike quickly shifted from confused to enthused once they saw him pay with his shades.

“The technology certainly started a lot of conversations, too,” he writes. “I mentioned to one worker, ‘My only worry is that I’d lose it,’ to which they replied, ‘Yeah, but who would pick them up and think, “Hey, this has money on it?”

Should you lose your pay-shades, the key is to simply block the online account, hopefully before some shady character drains it.

Visa partnered with Sydney’s Local Supply sunglass brand and Inamo, which developed a waterproof beach wearable called the Curl, to incorporate Visa’s contactless payWave technology into its WaveShades. Simply doff your pay-shades, wave them across a contactless Near Field Communication  (NFC) card reader and enjoy your vegemite sandwich and Foster’s lager, mate.

The whole pay-shades concept is genius really, and long overdue. If you’re like me, when heading out for a concert or sporting event, you’d be far more likely to forget your wallet, wrist wearable or extraneous fob than you would your sunglasses because, well, you’re going to wear them, right? Plus, we naturally track on our shades, almost without thinking, because a) they’re awkwardly shaped, b) they tend to break easily, and c) they can be a bear to replace.

The catch on this side of the Pacific is, we’re still building our contactless payment infrastructure compared to much of the rest of the world, so shades may not yet be as widely accepted here as in Oz. And there’s that whole account security issue to fine tune as well.

But as we gaze into the bright future of event payment technology, sunglasses are definitely nothing to squint at, according to Visa Asia Pacific spokesman Frederique Covington.

“The financial services environment is evolving at an unprecedented pace, which is exemplified by consumers’ changing relationship with payments,” she says. “The Visa WaveShades pilot is all about showing Australians that innovation in how we pay can make their lives simpler, and everyday experiences seamless and rewarding.”

Right said, Fred!

See related: Biometric scanner lets you pay bar tab by giving the finger, Gotta run; my pants have discovered eBayAt music festivals, cashless is all the rage

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