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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Fitbit lunges into payments

On Aug. 28, 2017, wearable fitness device brand Fitbit Inc. unveiled its first smartwatch, Fitbit Ionic. Now available for presale online, it will be stocked at retailers globally starting in October. The Ionic smartwatch features Fitbit Pay, a contactless payment offering that has been in development since Fitbit acquired Silicon Valley-based wearables payment platform Coin in May 2016.

Fitbit Ionic smartwatch users can apparently pay for items directly from the device wherever contactless payments are accepted. "Over the coming months you will be able to add eligible U.S. American Express cards, as well as Mastercard and Visa credit and debit cards from top issuing banks in over 10 markets across the globe," Fitbit stated, noting that it plans to expand into additional markets in the future.

During the initial phase, eligible Visa, Mastercard and AmEx cardholders tied to participating banks can make payments using Fitbit Pay. Once a credit or debit card is loaded onto the Fitbit companion app, users can hold the smartwatch adjacent to a near field communication (NFC)-enabled terminal to execute secure payment using tokenized services proprietary to each of the respective card brands.

Ionic runs on the just released Fitbit OS developed for Fitbit smartwatches, which happens to coincide with the newly launched Fitbit App Gallery. Starbucks Coffee Co. customers in North America can now pay using their Starbucks Card and Ionic device. It is Fitbit's expectation that Ionic's built-in NFC chip will accelerate cardless acceptance for user access to sporting, transportation, hotel and other venues.

A 10-year journey

"Ten years ago, Fitbit pioneered the wearables category with the introduction of its first health and fitness tracker," said James Park, the company's co-founder and Chief Executive Officer. "With Ionic, we will deliver what consumers have not yet seen in a smartwatch – a health and fitness first platform that combines the power of personalization and deeper insights with our most advanced technology to date, unlocking opportunities for unprecedented health tracking capabilities in the future."

Many predict that with the addition of payment capabilities, smartwatches will become an indispensable tool for on-the-go consumers. "Whether grabbing a smoothie post-run or paying for a coffee while counting steps on a city tour, we are delighted to give users the option to leave their wallet at home and simply pay with their device," said Jon Oakes, Vice President of Product Management at Fitbit.

Kiki Del Valle, Senior Vice President, Commerce for Every Device at Mastercard agreed, adding, "Consumers today are expecting technology to help them accomplish life's daily tasks with as few steps or clicks as possible. By adding payment capabilities to a Fitbit device, Mastercard holders who are already on-the-go can easily buy what they need without having to bring their wallet with them." According to IHS Inc., the projected number of wearable device units with payment functionality is expected to reach 150 million globally by 2020, so the ability to track fitness, play music and pay for items in one device could give brands like Fitbit an early advantage in this burgeoning market. end of article

Editor's Note:

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