It’s hardly a secret that MasterCard is hot on wearables; the company’s been talking about it for years and has even published an API to let programmers access its tokenization and payment systems. But earlier this week, MasterCard started to get very specific, showing wireless payment systems in Nymi authentication wristbands, Ringly jewelry, TrackR device locators, and GM car fobs. In addition, MasterCard announced partnerships with NFC chip makers NXP and Qualcomm, and with the bank Capital One. Products are expected in 2016.
Contactless payments using NFC chips are not particularly new; NFC-enhanced debit cards have been around for most of a decade, and Google Wallet-enabled mobile phones have existed for about four years. We participated in a contactless payment trial in New York City — with Nokia, Citibank, and MasterCard — longer ago than that. Payment networks and security have gotten more sophisticated since then, as have NFC chips. And Apple over the past year did what Apple does: make something that already existed smoother and more popular with Apple Pay and the Apple Watch.
The confluence of popular awareness and technical infrastructure appear to be converging with MasterCard’s announcements. Expect the coming year to have a flood of payment-aware portable devices of all kinds — most particularly including wearables. Here’s how MasterCard sees it: