Contactless Wearables: A Successful Implementation

For us in the Payments and ID markets, in the issuer (card) or acquirer (terminal) industries, it is common to hear about contactless technology. We are aware it involves complex specifications from ISO, the payment brands (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, JCB, CUP, Interac, etc.), the processors, terminal and card manufacturers, and the work hours for developing various solutions to enhance the consumer experience.

But, what happens when you are one of those consumers?

The Consumer Perspective on Contactless

It’s fun to be on the other side and enjoy the “easy life” that contactless technology brings to our lives. It’s great when you can quickly pay with your cell phone, when you can skip lines in a toll road (one of the first contactless implementations), or access information regarding your trip to Disney World before, during and after the visit.

At Disney World, it all starts with buying tickets in advance or at the box office, where you get a contactless card and you can buy a wristband called the “Magic Band”. This band gives you access to one or more of the parks. The Internet of Things (“IoT”) begins its job when you download the “My Disney Experience” app on your phone (it works on both Apple and Android, of course). Just link your ticket numbers (and Magic Bands), along with all your companions’, to your app.

Basically, the cards which represent the access tickets are now being replaced by those wristbands. So, what can you do with that contactless wearable? Almost everything.

If you stay in one of the Disney resorts, that band is your identification— when you buy it, your fingerprint is read and attached to the device. The Magic Band allows you to open your room, purchase souvenirs and pay at restaurants (for purchases, you’ll need to use the mobile app and link your credit card to your account).

In the parks, it grants you access and allows you to skip long lines with the “Fast Pass +” program. The app goes as far as to provide you the previews of photographs that Disney photographers take (they carry a contactless reader and ask you to tap your Magic Band after the pictures are taken). You can even find your Magic Band if you lose it, as the Disney personnel can use the radio frequency (RF) signal to locate your band.

The Technology Behind the Contactless Experience

But the question must be asked— is this wristband much more than a regular contactless wearable? Is it different from the contactless cards or other similar devices, most of which are passive (require a magnetic field from the terminal to work)? The Magic Band contains a battery, one of those used in the regular watches, that converts the wristband into a dynamic device, so it will not need the terminal magnetic field for activating the chip and broadcasting an RF signal, used to identify visitors in Disney facilities.

In addition to an enhanced consumer experience, contactless technology leverages elite security procedures to ensure the wristband is not tampered or hacked.

The advantages of this technology have been so clear that Disney’s competitors are catching on. Universal Studios and Legoland implemented a contactless technology in their soda cups, so you can refill your drink (every 10 minutes) on the day that you bought it FOR FREE (after paying an initial cost of around $15 USD). The cups have a chip in the base, and the Coca-Cola machines have a contactless reader in the cup placeholder. It will be interesting to see what additional enhancements will bolster the consumer experience in the coming years.

Contactless Technical Needs and Implications

There are, of course, essential  considerations to implementing contactless technology:

  • Define your scope: It’s essential to know what the consumer touchpoints are, now and in the future, that you’ll want to cover with the contactless implementation. Think wide, and don’t hesitate on building the infrastructure today for what you can implement tomorrow.
    • Who to Involve: Project Management Office
  • Think safe: All the participating elements MUST be safe for your consumers and secure for you so there is no risk of harming anyone— not even your data. All devices need to be certified with the relevant security authorities.
    • Who to Involve: Security and Product Development teams
  • The Back-End: All powerful servers for databases, elements interconnections and cloud access have to be guaranteed on a 24/7 basis, including backup and Disaster Recovery Plans.
    • Who to Involve: Technology (IT, Communications, Engineering) and Security teams
  • The Front-End: The consumer experience is the picture and image of your business. Everything that faces your customer must utilize a user-friendly interface, which has to be useful, concise, explanatory and clear.
    • Who to Involve: Marketing and Product Development
  • People are needed: Many consumers do not feel very comfortable interacting with machines only. Even when your automated systems are excellent, you will need people available to solve consumer “problems”, from simple questions to technical issues, from a human perspective.
    • Who to Involve: HR, Marketing, Technical Support

While contactless implementations are doubtlessly complex, contactless is the future of consumer experience. We can see it, wear it… and drink from it!

For questions about contactless technology, its implementation and implications, please contact Victor at [email protected].

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