A new Olympic ring? Visa’s will allow athletes in Rio to make mobile payments

visa payment ring rio 2016
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Visa unveiled a new post-password wearable tech solution — a near-field-communication-based payment ring that syncs directly to its user’s credit card account — during an event in New York on Thursday. The ring, which is still in the prototype phase, will be given to a select group of sponsored athletes to use during the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in August.

Based on the McLear and Co. NFC ring, the Visa payment ring features a secure chip with an NFC-enabled antenna. It uses Visa Token Service, the credit platform’s mobile payment technology service, to authorize transactions without transferring a user’s account information. In other words, it works exactly like using your Visa card through Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, or Android Pay, minus the phone (and the fingerprint sensor). The ring itself, according to Visa, is especially suited for everyday use because it doesn’t need to be taken off. It does not need to have its batteries replaced or be recharged regularly. It’s also water-resistant up to 50 meters.

To promote the Visa Token Service, the company is giving out a set of these rings to “Team Visa,” a group of 45 sponsored athletes participating in the Rio games who “embody Visa’s values of acceptance, partnership and innovation,” the company said.

“The host nations sit back and say you’re going to see the best of China, the best of Greece, you’re going to see the best of Brazil — and we’re not only going to show you our history, but we’re going to show you what we believe our future will be,” Chris Curtin, chief brand and innovation officer at Visa, told Digital Trends. “And somewhere in that mix creatively, I think that there’s a lot of latitude to sit back and say, ‘Well, let’s show you the future in payments.'”

In that vein of competitively showing off its innovation, Visa, the “exclusive payment provider” of the Rio Games, will supply “approximately 4,000” NFC-enabled payment terminals across the city’s Olympic facilities. As American Team Visa swimmer Missy Franklin pointed out, having a wearable payment device should be convenient for athletes in this setting because they may not care to carry a phone or wallet while training.

“The Visa ring is a great innovation that I know all the athletes competing in Rio will enjoy, as it will be great to go from a competition to purchase without having to carry a wallet or card,” she said.

Additional reporting by Julian Chokkattu.

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