During Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC), a notable bank missing when the firm announced its list of financial partners in the launch of Apple Pay in the UK was Barclays. At the time, Barclays representatives related that they were in fact in negotiations with Apple about the inclusion of their credit and debit cards within Apple Pay. However, it was also noted that Barclays has been a leader of mobile payment within the UK, having launched the SMS-based money transfer system, Pingit, in 2012.
With Apple Pay arriving to the UK, Barclays remains on the sidelines of that system. Nonetheless, their exclusion doesn’t mean the bank is remaining dormant in its mobile and wearable payment aspirations.
Getting introduced by Barclays is the bPay band. A wearable plastic band, the product enables UK consumers to have access to contactless payments at merchants with accepting the device. The system will be introduced during two large summer events in London; Pride in London and British Summer Time Hyde Park. Using bPay at the events, consumers will be able to purchase goods and tickets using the contactless system, as well as gaining access to special offers and media experiences.
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According to Barclays, bPay is part of a larger focus of their Barclaycard division to incorporate technology that is part of the future of payments. In this regard, they view bPay as enabling consumers to travel around the city easily without the need of carrying a wallet, with band handling their basic payment and travel transactions.
A question one can ask is why create a wearable device specifically for payments? In doing so, Barclays competes against health trackers such as FitBit and Jawbone that control the majority of the wearable space as well as smartwatch creators, of which the Apple Watch has quickly become the 800 pound gorilla. In addition, as part of their marketing of bPay, Barclays portrays the benefits a consumer who runs out to the gym and then buys a cup of coffee could have from bPay without needing to take their wallet. However, that target group is the key user for health related wearable.
As such, the answer of ‘why a payment band?’ appears to lie in that bPay will be a proof of a concept product to illustrate the capabilities of contactless payments. Beyond simply storing debit and credit card information and travel tickets, bPay appears headed for further partnerships. This future could see Barclays partner with firms like FitBit and Jawbone to create integrated devices that include both health tracking features and payment solutions. Also, another possible partner could be Microsoft, which hasn’t yet entered the payment space like Apple, Google and Samsung have done, but is making headway with its wearable technology and covering the health and virtual reality space.
Overall, like with its PingIt product, Barclays is showing that its interests are in leading the payments space, instead of following. This facet should provide them with more options in how and when they want to partner with third parties. In addition, having their own distribution of mobile and wearable products could allow them to have leverage when negotiating with other firms, such as Apple.