Optus plugs touch payments into wearables

Optus is exploring the use of its Cash By Optus mobile NFC payments application in wearables including smartwatches.

Optus is aiming to bring mobile payments to customers that don't have NFC-capable phones via a range of wearable devices, including smartwatches.

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(Image: Josh Taylor/ZDNet)

The move into wearables is designed to target users who don't own one of the 20 Android-based phones that have been able to work with Cash By Optus since the payments service was launched in November last year.

The Cash By Optus-compatible watch and wristband have NFC and EMV technology embedded using Visa PayWave. The devices connect to a user's phone via Bluetooth to provide up-to-date information on the credit they have available in their Visa prepaid account. The battery on the watch is designed to last one year.

Optus customers can register for the services via the Cash By Optus app in a few minutes, and load up to AU$500 on the device with a maximum transaction of AU$100.

Managing director of Optus' customer unit, Vicki Brady, said that the aim of the application is to replace cash.

"Customers tell us they love how fast this is, how easy it is, and how secure it is. Seventy percent of the transactions are under AU$15... Almost half of the transactions relate to food. Either fast foods or grocery purchases," she told journalists at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona on Tuesday.

The move will bring the payments application to iOS, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry for the first time, and make it compatible with 110 devices across 10 vendors.

It comes as Apple is moving ahead with its own Apple Pay payments application, and this week saw Samsung launch its rival payments application Samsung Pay.

The Singtel-owned Australian telecommunications company is hoping to make the devices available at the end of the year, after Optus tests the market over the next few months.

The price to purchase the wearables is not yet known. It is a partnership between Optus, Heritage Bank, and Visa.

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