22 October 2018
So Hoi Nam, a former elite athlete and now a Nike Running Club head coach, loves cashless payment as carrying stuff is difficult while running. Photo: HKEJ
So Hoi Nam, a former elite athlete and now a Nike Running Club head coach, loves cashless payment as carrying stuff is difficult while running. Photo: HKEJ

Payment wearables offer convenience for fitness fans

Running is fast becoming the most popular way to exercise in Hong Kong. There are nearly 150 running competitions in the city this year, including long-distance, marathon and trail runs. That compares with a figure of just 44 such competitions in 2010.

More than 110,000 runners applied to join an upcoming marathon event before a deadline passed in early September. The organizer even introduced a ballot system for the applicants, an indication of the huge demand from locals for participation in the race.

Running fits the modern busy lifestyle. It can be done anywhere anytime with just a pair of trainers. However, sport wears don’t leave too much room for a wallet.

Runners who choose to leave home without cash and credit cards may find it inconvenient as they cannot shop in restaurants or grocery shops after exercise. To help them, some foreign watch makers have incorporated payment functions in smartwatches.

So Hoi Nam, a former elite athlete and now a Nike Running Club head coach, has been running for two decades since his secondary school years. “When I was a student, I would carry an MTR storage card and a HK$20 note with me every time I went for running. I could buy some drink with the cash after a run.”

He said runners should carry as few things as possible. “I would bring some cash in the past as there were no ‘smart’ devices then. Now I have Apple Watch and I can buy a drink or go to a restaurant with Apple Pay after working out.”

The running enthusiast says he finds himself using cash less nowadays as many shops accept Apple Pay. And he added that the advanced technology of wearable devices has made life much easier.

Cashless payments

Up to 49 percent of respondents in the United States had at least once wanted to make a purchase immediately before or after working out, but they failed to do so due to lack of cash or other payment tools, according to a recent “Visa Sweaty Money Survey”.

The survey, in which Visa interviewed about 1,000 adults, also showed that 57 percent of respondents had resorted to keeping credit cards, cash or phones in socks, shoes, underpants or bras while doing exercise. As a result, 60 percent of all participants in the survey said they were keen to use a wearable device that can perform cashless payments.

To offer more convenience to fitness fans, Visa has teamed up with Garmin and FitBit, two leading US fitness tracker companies, to install on-the-go payment services in watches so that users can shop by tapping the device on an NFC enabled point-of-sale terminal.

“The wearable device, powered by Visa token service, can replace credit card information with a 16-digit token, which cannot be used by other people even if the token is stolen by hackers. The device also has password settings that can prevent others from using it,” said Gavin Ho, Director of Emerging Products & Innovation for VISA in Hong Kong and Macau.

“Such device can help users ensure payment security.”

More smart devices

According to some research reports, about 2 billion objects in the world will be connected to the Internet-of-Things by 2020.

“A drinking bottle or a ring will become a connected device. By then, people won’t even have to wear a smartwatch during exercise,” Ho said. “At the same time, people should be increasingly wary of payment safety. Visa token service can ensure that all payment transactions are done in a safe environment.”

“I would wear my Garmin watch if I want to track my performance more accurately while training. It would definitely be a plus if the watch can also be a payment tool,” says So, the Nike Running Club head coach.

He said safety remains a key issue for cashless payment.

“After all, all payments involve money. I don’t want to take any risk, such as a situation that I have to pay more or someone steals my money. As long as all security issues can be solved, I would definitely love to do cashless payment. It would be perfect if we can live in a cash-free society,” he said.

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