[Update: Vita Products CEO/co-founder David Waxman just filled in some of my blanks by email, so this post has be revised with new details.]
Whenever I go exercise, I try to only bring my Subway pass and credit card with me but still have to trust that my locker won't be broken into while I'm working out. With the introduction of U.S. Bank's VITAband, which was developed with MasterCard, Vita Products, Oberthur Technologies and FIS, your "exercise wallet" won't have to leave your wrist.
The VITAband embeds a MasterCard PayPass chip, your emergency contacts as well as an Emergency Response Profile into a thin, watch-like device. It contains a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) to make "Tap and Go" purchases possible; transactions under $50 do not require a signature. The PayPass chip is tied to your Vita account where you can load money to the wristband online, so there are limited funds for a thief to steal. Your medical information, on the other hand, is accessible with an eight-digit code on the wristband so that medical personnel can access your health records should you become unresponsive for any reason.
Though the device is designed for "sports enthusiasts or people who are on-the-go and don’t want the hassle of carrying cash and identification," according to U.S. Bank's Beth Blaisdell, it could also be useful for aging seniors and those with dementia where they can benefit from a wearable e-wallet.
Of course, a device with such convenient access to critical and personal information could make things just a bit too easy for thieves and hackers to ring up purchases and access our medical information, should they get a hold of these wristbands. At least it'd be something that you will notice right away should it go missing from your wrist, and it's probably possible to disable the wristband remotely like a missing credit card.
According to Vita Product's website, a VITAband will cost first-time owners $39.95, which includes a one-year subscription to the cloud-based storage of you medical record and emergency contacts. After the first year, the service will cost $19.95 per year, with additional wristbands at cost $19.95.
U.S. Bank employees are testing this device out across the country so an official launch can't be far behind. These wristbands are already available from Bancorp Bank, which partnered with Visa and launched a similar product back in June. In fact, Vita Products CEO and co-founder David Waxman informed me by email that users don't have to be U.S. Bank customers to use this product. Anyone with a Visa or MasterCard debit or credit in America can load money to their Vita account to use with their VITAband.
For me, this makes more sense than an NFC-enabled smartphone that doubles as an e-wallet because I don't like leaving my phone in a locker while I exercise either. Now if only the VITAband could open doors and double as a transit pass too...
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