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I’m a big believer in wearables (not watches). But then I have been for a while.

It seems to me that one of the most interesting of contactless attributes, which is freeing payments from the tyranny of form factor, has yet to properly exploited. But in one area – wearables – we are seeing some developments. Such as this one from down under:

Menswear label M.J. Bale, Heritage Bank and Visa have teamed up to create a suit with a contactless payment chip and antenna woven into the sleeve.

[From Contactless payment SUIT lets you pay with a wave of a sleeve | Mail Online]

It’s a cute idea and I will of course go and buy one, since I feel it is both my blessing and curse that I find new payment toys unbearably fascinating, but I don’t really want another payment account. I’d rather just take one of my contactless credit cards (naturally I have several) and slip it into a convenient hidden pocket in the sleeve of the suit. And if you’re wondering where I got that idea from, it was my Thomas Pink Commuter shirts that I bought back in 2006.

The Commuter has only recently been launched but Pink says it is already flying out of shops faster than a rush-hour train.

[From A passion for pockets with a difference – FT.com]

The Commuter shirt had two features that I really liked. It had a channel running up the inside to carry earphone cables tucked away out of sight. These connected through a hole in a side pocket so that you could keep your iPod snug and out of the way. And it had that second pocket for a contactless card in the cuff. It was designed really for Oyster cards, but we put Visa cards in the pocket to make purchases using standard POS terminals with contactless interfaces. In memory serves, we also bought of few of them a presents for some of our favourite customers at the time! Anyway, I just went upstairs and got one to model for you:

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The point I used to make was that contactless was about more than the interface, it was about form factors and that it would lead to innovation and I used the shirt to show an example of innovation beyond the card itself. Although the shirt was fun and helped to make an interesting demo about contactless payments in conference presentations, I thought it had two design flaws.

First of all, the pocket was behind the cuff on the top of the wrist. This meant you had to lay the back of your forearm across the contactless POS terminal or Oyster card reader. The pocket really should have been on the underneath of the forearm near the wrist to make paying a more natural action.

The second problem was that if you were wearing a suit and coat, it was hard to get the card close enough for the reader. I remember thinking at the time that I wished that the pocket was in my suit rather than in my shirt.

Naturally, being a consultant rather than a business wizard my thoughts went no further. Now only eight years later some entrepreneurial Aussies have gone and put the payment in the suit. I know it’s really just a publicity stunt but good for them – it’s a bonza idea and may stimulate some further innovation in a country where half of all Visa transactions are already contactless. What’s more, it will add some fun to payments, so I hope my consumer feedback from 2006 will prove useful to them.

3 comments

  1. This made me think of ski jackets that have been made with ski pass pockets in the sleeve for some time. The pocket is about half way up the forearm but that’s OK because ski pass readers are positioned vertically at the ski lift gate so that your card gets read just by walking through the gate. May be eventually payment card readers will be positioned this way?

  2. Rather than put it into the shirt or suit, why not put the chip into cufflinks? Could be a neat solution. Still a pretty niche item though.

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