The COVID-19 pandemic has sent interest in contactless payment systems skyrocketing in the U.S. Even bigwigs like Amazon are putting research resources toward innovative technologies that allow customers to pay without ever touching cash or a grungy PIN pad. In Europe, meanwhile, contactless solutions have been widely used for years... so it's little wonder that the place where new takes on the technology are being tested.
French designer Philippe Starck has come up with a beautiful contactless payment system — and the best part is it doesn’t require you to share your biometric data with one of the largest tech corporations in the world. Instead, Starck has created a ring called thew Aeklys that's capable of storing info for all of your cards, unlocking your car, and working with anything else that supports NFC (near-field communication).
Starck made his design a reality in collaboration with a Corsican startup called iCare Technologies. Starck and iCare say the smart ring “connects you to your environment like magic.”
The Aeklys is a beautiful piece of technology with impressive features, pushing the boundaries of payment tech far beyond the norm. It’s not likely you’ll see them on everyone’s fingers just yet — but the ring’s successes could, at the very least, usher in a wider variety of contactless payment solutions in the future.
One ring to rule them all — Aeklys is designed for simplicity. Just add your payment card details to the ring’s dedicated app for Android and iOS and you're good to go anywhere contactless payments are accepted. The same app also includes a feature to measure your finger, so you can ensure you order the right size ring.
At launch, Aeklys can be used for five functions: contactless banking payments, access to public transportation, personal identification, IT identification, and a private concierge service. (It’s unclear what this concierge service is; the company says it can be accessed through the Aeklys app.)
The ring’s creators are dreaming even bigger, though. They want Aeklys to be your go-to verification method for everything from airline tickets to the connection with and management of your smart home. Aeklys, its creators hope, will someday be your all-in-one ID device.
But, uh, what if I lose it? — As with any new type of device, though, smart rings come with a fresh line of privacy concerns. iCare promises that Aeklys is secured with plenty of security systems to stop attackers from using your data. Its software is protected by a user recognition system — presumably through a fingerprint scan, though the company hasn’t said much about this system — and it integrates “high- performance anti-theft and anti-copy systems.”
These systems should ostensibly block anyone but the ring’s owner from using it as a payment method. There’s also a method by which users can remotely deactivate the ring if it’s lost.
In a world where tech is consistently throwing more material objects at us, Aeklys is a small breath of fresh air. Tech that simplifies our lives is always welcome here. Aeklys is available on iCare’s website for a little under $300 (€249). Despite their still-limited popularity, smart ring technology has progressed far enough at this point that the devices are capable of assisting users in predicting upcoming illnesses. Roll that into payments and we might be willing to give up the Apple Watch.