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MWC: Visa makes wearables payable

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Visa announced at Mobile World Congress that it is expanding its Visa Ready program to include Internet of Things companies, such as manufacturers of wearables, automobiles, appliances, public transportation services, clothing and almost any other connected device.

Emerging IoT companies will join mobile device manufacturers, including mobile point-of-sale acceptance (mPOS) providers, mobile NFC-enabled device manufacturers and other technology partners in the Visa Ready Program.

The Visa Ready Program gives companies one seamless path to integrate secure payments into their products and services. Visa Ready partners receive access to industry best practices, tools and resources, and Visa’s Digital Enablement Program (VDEP), which includes streamlined access to Visa Token Service (VTS). The Visa Token Service, an innovative security technology, allows secure mobile and digital payments anywhere there is an Internet connection.

The first IoT companies to join the Visa Ready Program will focus on payments for wearables and automobiles. Initial Visa Ready partners include Accenture, Coin, Giesecke & Devrient, Fit Pay, and Samsung, who will work with device manufacturers including Chronos and Pebble, to help embed secure payments in consumer devices and have those devices certified as Visa Ready.

Mobile technology is accelerating the pace of change in the payments industry, helping open up new possibilities for a generation of consumers who increasingly rely on connected devices to manage their money, shop, pay and get paid. The number of IoT enabled devices is expected to reach 50 billion by 2020 according to Cisco, providing a huge opportunity for secure payments to be a feature in just about any form factor.

“More and more, consumers are relying on smart appliances and connected devices to make their lives easier,” said Jim McCarthy, executive vice president of innovation and strategic partnerships at Visa Inc. “By adding payments to these devices, we are turning virtually any Internet connection into a commerce experience – making secure payments seamless, and ultimately more accessible, to merchants and consumers.”

Visa Ready Program for IoT

The Visa Ready Program is a commercial program designed to provide innovators with a path to help ensure that devices, software and solutions can initiate or accept Visa payments. It also provides a framework for collaboration with Visa, as well as guidance and best practices to access the power of the Visa network. Mobile point-of-sale acceptance (mPOS) providers, mobile NFC-enabled device manufacturers, and chip and platform providers are already playing a critical role in enabling new ways to pay and benefiting from the Visa Ready Program.

The Visa Ready Program for IoT will also enable device manufacturers to evaluate, develop and potentially adopt new payment methods that are already approved by Visa, and can help financial institutions and merchants drive growth by expanding the use and acceptance of electronic payments globally.

Visa Token Service

As part of the Visa Ready Program, all participants will use the Visa Token Service (VTS) security technology that replaces sensitive payment account information found on payment cards, such as the 16-digit account number, with a unique digital identifier that can be used to process payments without exposing actual account details.

Visa Partner Quotes: 

Visa’s partners around the world are sharing their views on Visa Ready program for IoT manufacturers:

  • “This is the type of secure, frictionless payment enabler that we are looking to include in commercial solutions as clients start experimenting with how best to take advantage of the IoT,” said Anand Swaminathan, managing director of growth & strategy, Accenture Digital.  “We lead a range of initiatives with contextual commerce capabilities that could integrate Visa Token Services. We are looking forward to seeing where else Visa Token Services will help make IoT-enabled payments easier for customers across any number of situations.”
  • “Chronos is focused on bringing the very best of today’s technology to the items you already wear; creating seamless devices by distilling functionality and technology only to those that provide meaningful interactions,” said Luke Fromowitz, co-founder and CTO, Chronos. “Chronos believes payment on the wrist is one of those interactions; there is no quicker or more convenient method for payment than tapping your Chronos powered watch at the register. Partnering with Coin and Visa has allowed us to quickly bring this technology to the Chronos platform and help push the standard of payment processes into the future.”
  • “Coin is excited to be a Visa strategic partner in bringing secure payments to IoT devices. We’re giving wearables makers like Chronos, enabled by Coin, a seamless solution to integrate payment functionality,” said Kanishk Parashar, CEO and co-founder of Coin. “Our partnership with Visa is significant because of how it enables payment functionality on everyday devices. This is a big opportunity for the rapidly growing wearables market, projected to reach $53 billion in sales by 2019.”
  • “Visa Ready is about opening secure, convenient payment capabilities to a wider range of products and enhancing the overall user experience,” said Michael Orlando, co-founder and chief executive officer of Fit Pay Inc., which has developed a payment platform services for wearable devices. “Integrating our wearable payment platform with the world’s largest card network is a critical step to bringing contactless payment capabilities to a whole new generation of IoT devices, including Pagaré – a payment smart strap we have developed for the Pebble Time.”
  • “The growing IoT market, particularly wearables, needs secure transactions and connectivity. G&D secures mobile life in the connected society,” noted Axel Deininger, senior vice president and head of the enterprise security OEM division at Giesecke & Devrient. “We are pleased to work with Visa on their new program.”
  • “We’re thrilled to be one of the first smartwatch makers in the Visa Ready Program,” said Eric Migicovsky, founder and chief executive officer of Pebble. “More than ever, today’s consumers value products that make their lives easier. Having the ability to make secure payments directly from your wrist is convenient and a great example of how a smartwatch can be helpful in your everyday life.”

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Money talks and electronic gaming evolves

Computer gaming has evolved dramatically in the last two years, as it follows the money, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK in the second of a two-part series.

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The clue that gaming has become big business in South Africa was delivered by a non-gaming brand. When Comic Con, an American popular culture convention that has become a mecca for comics enthusiasts, was hosted in South Arica for the first time last month, it used gaming as the major drawcard. More than 45 000 people attended.

The event and its attendance was expected to be a major dampener for the annual rAge gaming expo, which took place just weeks later. Instead, rAge saw only a marginal fall in visitor numbers. No less than 34 000 people descended on the Ticketpro Dome for the chaos of cosplay, LAN gaming, virtual reality, board gaming and new video games. 

It proved not only that there was room for more than one major gaming event, but also that a massive market exists for the sector in South Africa. And with a large market, one also found numerous gaming niches that either emerged afresh or will keep going over the years. One of these, LAN (for Local Area Network) gaming, which sees hordes of players camping out at the venue for three days to play each other on elaborate computer rigs, was back as strong as ever at rAge.

MWeb provided an 8Gbps line to the expo, to connect all these gamers, and recorded 120TB in downloads and 15Tb in uploads – a total that would have used up the entire country’s bandwidth a few years ago.

“LANs are supposed to be a thing of the past, yet we buck the trend each year,” says Michael James, senior project manager and owner of rAge. “It is more of a spectacle than a simple LAN, so I can understand.”

New phenomena, often associated with the flavour of the moment, also emerge every year.

“Fortnite is a good example this year of how we evolve,” says James. “It’s a crazy huge phenomenon and nobody was servicing the demand from a tournament point of view. So rAge and Xbox created a casual LAN tournament that anyone could enter and win a prize. I think the top 10 people got something each round.”

Read on to see how esports is starting to make an impact in gaming.

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Blockchain unpacked

Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.

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This technology was originally conceived in 1991, when Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta described their first work on a chain of cryptographically secured blocks, but only gained notoriety in 2008, when it became popular with the arrival of Bitcoin. It is currently gaining demand in other commercial applications and its annual growth is expected to reach 51% by 2022 in numerous markets, such as those of financial institutions and the Internet of Things (IoT), according to MarketWatch.

What is blockchain?

A blockchain is a unique, consensual record that is distributed over multiple network nodes. In the case of cryptocurrencies, think of it as the accounting ledger where each transaction is recorded.

A blockchain transaction is complex and can be difficult to understand if you delve into the inner details of how it works, but the basic idea is simple to follow.

Each block stores:

–           A number of valid records or transactions.
–           Information referring to that block.
–           A link to the previous block and next block through the hash of each block—a unique code that can be thought of as the block’s fingerprint.

Accordingly, each block has a specific and immovable place within the chain, since each block contains information from the hash of the previous block. The entire chain is stored in each network node that makes up the blockchain, so an exact copy of the chain is stored in all network participants.

As new records are created, they are first verified and validated by the network nodes and then added to a new block that is linked to the chain.

How is blockchain so secure?

Being a distributed technology in which each network node stores an exact copy of the chain, the availability of the information is guaranteed at all times. So if an attacker wanted to cause a denial-of-service attack, they would have to annul all network nodes since it only takes one node to be operative for the information to be available.

Besides that, since each record is consensual, and all nodes contain the same information, it is almost impossible to alter it, ensuring its integrity. If an attacker wanted to modify the information in a blockchain, they would have to modify the entire chain in at least 51% of the nodes.

In blockchain, data is distributed across all network nodes. With no central node, all participate equally, storing, and validating all information. It is a very powerful tool for transmitting and storing information in a reliable way; a decentralised model in which the information belongs to us, since we do not need a company to provide the service.

What else can blockchain be used for?

Essentially, blockchain can be used to store any type of information that must be kept intact and remain available in a secure, decentralised and cheaper way than through intermediaries. Moreover, since the information stored is encrypted, its confidentiality can be guaranteed, as only those who have the encryption key can access it.

Use of blockchain in healthcare

Health records could be consolidated and stored in blockchain, for instance. This would mean that the medical history of each patient would be safe and, at the same time, available to each doctor authorised, regardless of the health centre where the patient was treated. Even the pharmaceutical industry could use this technology to verify medicines and prevent counterfeiting.

Use of blockchain for documents

Blockchain would also be very useful for managing digital assets and documentation. Up to now, the problem with digital is that everything is easy to copy, but Blockchain allows you to record purchases, deeds, documents, or any other type of online asset without them being falsified.

Other blockchain uses

This technology could also revolutionise the Internet of Things  (IoT) market where the challenge lies in the millions of devices connected to the internet that must be managed by the supplier companies. In a few years’ time, the centralised model won’t be able to support so many devices, not to mention the fact that many of these are not secure enough. With blockchain, devices can communicate through the network directly, safely, and reliably with no need for intermediaries.

Blockchain allows you to verify, validate, track, and store all types of information, from digital certificates, democratic voting systems, logistics and messaging services, to intelligent contracts and, of course, money and financial transactions.

Without doubt, blockchain has turned the immutable and decentralized layer the internet has always dreamed about into a reality. This technology takes reliance out of the equation and replaces it with mathematical fact.

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