By Chad Morris


5 Min. To Read

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First there were coins, then came paper money, then plastic, then smartphones. All of these could be replaced in the near future by the arrival of something that actually is quite older—jewelry.

Payment jewelry using NFC (near field communication) technology is being developed that will simplify the way people pay in a store. While there is a major technological hurdle that must be cleared—namely that there is no battery for the jewelry to use—one company is working to overcome this obstacle.

Infineon in particular has developed a ring that functions with NFC-enabled payment terminals. This is the same company that manufactures most of the world’s credit card chips. Instead of using a battery, Infineon’s payment ring obtains energy from an EM (electromagnetic) field near the payment terminal. A computer chip sits inside the ring, and an antenna wraps around it. This hardware is housed inside a ceramic wrap, which creates an aesthetic look.

As with phones and contactless cards, you simply need to place the ring near the payment terminal, and the transaction is completed in literally milliseconds. Infineon promises that the ring will function even within a weak EM field.

While all this may sound easy enough, the great challenge in developing a ring that can be used for payments is security. Other rings with NFC tags have been developed, but these were not capable of payments because they didn’t have a security chip. A security chip needs a higher level of energy than an NFC tag. So developing a ring without a battery that is still capable of secure transactions was quite a challenge. But Infineon has done it.

One company that is actually marketing a payment ring for purchase in the United Kingdom is McLear. The company is taking reservations now and will release a limited number of rings in the near future.

McLear’s payment ring has no battery and is scratch resistant. It is hypoallergenic, so just about anyone should be able to wear one. McLear also says it is stress tested to ensure a minimum level of strength. Because the ring is waterproof, you can take a shower with it or swim with it.

Using McLear’s mobile app, the ring can be connected to a credit card, debit card, or bank account. The app displays every transaction made with a ring. With the app, it’s possible to lock a ring to prevent any purchases in case the jewelry is lost or stolen. The app can perform other functions, including adding a PIN or loading funds to a ring so that it can be used in prepaid mode.

McLear’s payment rings come in a variety of colors and can have a custom logo added. The company also claims that its rings have proven to increase the number of payment transactions because they are easier to use than traditional modes of payment.

The future is obvious here. Once the ring establishes itself as a usable payment method, other types of jewelry will be added. Bracelets are a prime candidate, and pendants on necklaces could also be used. Using jewelry instead of taking out a phone, unlocking it, finding the right app, etc., will be faster and more convenient.

There is no word yet on McLear’s price point for its payment ring. While we signed up to get one of the company’s rings, we haven’t received any indication of the price. One thing we can be confident of: as the technology becomes more ubiquitous, and more rings are manufactured, the price will come down, and this could make them as common as smartphones. And just as smartphones changed how people interact with the world, so will payment jewelry.

First there were coins, then came paper money, then plastic, then smartphones. All of these could be replaced in the near future by the arrival of something that actually is quite older—jewelry. TAG

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