Innovations and Payment Systems

Calling Dick Tracy: Credit card watches debut


The wristwatch-credit card combo is fashionable, keeps good time and has a $10,000 credit limit.

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Isn’t it about time for a wristwatch credit card?

MasterCard thinks so. The “priceless” payment brand recently approved the LAKS Smart Transaction Watch 2, a handsome black and stainless steel analog timepiece with an embedded antenna coil that functions as a contactless PayPass device once a tiny SIM-like M/Chip is inserted.

The payment watch, a joint venture between Austria Card and Vienna-based LAKS watches, is the latest move into nontraditional form factors by Austria Card, a leading supplier of smart cards in Austria and Eastern Europe.

“The delivery of smart card chip modules to local chip embedders allows Austria Card to expand its market presence into new geographical territories,” says Max Paul, marketing director of the Lykos Group, the major shareholder in Austria Card.

Dubai-based Emirates Bank and the Turkish Vakif Bank were the first financial institutions to order Smart Transaction Watches for their customers.

LAKS introduced its first Smart Transaction Watch in 2006 as a limited edition FIFA World Cup sports watch in collaboration with Taiwan-based Chinatrust Commercial Bank.

The watchmaker then improved upon its original design by adding a slide-in slot below the 9 o’clock position that enables users to quickly and easily insert their M/Chip and turn their timepiece into a tap-and-go credit card.

Watches are only the latest wearable accessory to be augmented as a means to make electronic payments as handy as cash. The idea of a credit card ring dates back at least to 1964, when the New York Times ran this ad.

Since then, a variety of contactless RFID key fobs have been deployed, including the miniature, gym bag-ready Discover 2GO Card. Elsewhere in the world, that most ubiquitous accessory, the cell phone, has become the contactless payment solution of choice.

Multifunction watches gaining
But multifunctional watches are certainly gaining momentum.

The Fossil Wrist Net ($149-$199) pulls in customized news, sports and weather via FM radio waves with an MSN Direct subscription. NHJ’s Wearable TV Watch ($199) keeps your favorite television shows handy on its 1\xbd-inch screen, thanks to a micro tuner and headphone antenna.

Two LAKS watches ($200 each) carry 2G of integrated memory; one for storage, the other as an MP3 player, and both with USB connectivity. The Garmin Forerunner 201 ($160) features an integrated GPS. And new mothers will want to check out the Boardbug Baby and Child Monitor, which enables you to keep watch on your toddler while remotely monitoring your new baby’s every cry and temperature change.

Or you can indulge your inner Dick Tracy with a real-life two-way wrist radio, LG’s new DG910 Watch Phone. The mighty mite incorporates a 1.43-inch touch screen that toggles from video to keypad, a built-in camera and 3 gigs of storage — handy for evidence-gathering should you run across Pruneface or Flattop Jones.

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