The combination of mobile devices, apps and the imagination of innovators delivers exciting new opportunities for consumers and commerce to be connected like never before. And the latest and greatest was on display at CES this week. More than 150,000-plus visitors, two-million square feet of exhibits, and more than 3,500 companies were all vying to capture their fair share of the “internet of things” tidal wave.
We thought we’d take a look at some of the products released at CES 2015 that could give us a glimpse into some of “what’s next” as payments and commerce moves increasingly digital and increasingly into any internet-connected device.
Selfies may be the next biometrics password
Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint sensor may have started the trend, but now there's a push to go even further with security measures. Instead of relying on remembering PIN numbers and passwords, the future of mobile may involve tapping into features that can't be forgotten or changed.
Eye-scanning, facial recognition, heart-rate measurement — biometrics were the “next big thing” in enabling the safe and secure authentication of consumers in use cases as wide ranging as unlocking their front doors, their computers and their phones. Apps like Hoyas Labs' One You provided a glimpse into how biometrics enable ATM machines and banking apps.
"2014 was the year of the hacker so for 2015 here at CES a number of companies want to replace your password with something much harder to steal — your biometrics. You see, we are all like snowflakes. We each have unique characteristics. And if these companies are onto something, your future password could just very well be your own body," Bloomberg reporter Sam Grobart said while at CES Jan. 7.
Cyber-security at CES: Biometric mobile wallet app
Bitcoin's potential new best friend made its debut at CES.
Fintech and cyber security startup HyprKey announced the release of HYPR-3 — its biometric mobile wallet app — that's patent pending. The product billed as "an innovative product operating on a three-factor authentication protocol” was pitched as the wallet that is uber secure and aimed at digital currency use cases.
Here's how it works. Users authenticate themselves with their fingerprint “by swiping an adhesive biometric, which unlocks an encrypted token generator.” That token is then transmitted via Bluetooth to the user’s PIN-locked mobile device at which point the mobile device authorizes the transaction made by the digital wallet.
The app is designed to integrate credit card and bitcoin accounts. To help the product grow, HyprKey was looking to meet with potential partners at the CES event.
"As technology increasingly transforms commerce, the payments landscape is poised to benefit from security and efficiencies," said HyprKey CEO George Avetisov. "HYPR-3 is a biometric authentication platform we expect to gain prominence as a direct result of showcasing its functionality, which includes the ability to spend digital currencies such as Bitcoin through auto-conversion. The capability of safeguarding user accounts like bankcards behind an impenetrable key goes beyond payments, and we expect significant interest from enterprise level partners."
A smartwatch that makes payments without the phone?
Smartwatches were key at this year's CES, but with so much focus on what a smartwatch could do — start a car, turn on coffee maker, control temperature in the rom, etc. — there wasn't as much chatter about smartwatches and payments. The focus at the event remained more about smartwatches as mini-computers and less about them as digital wallets.
One product introduced at CES was LAKS, that uses a payment program called Watch2Pay that won't require a smartphone to make payments. Early reports indicated the "watch will do phone-free mobile payments within a year, " VentureBeat reported.
Currently, LAKS is only available in Poland, the Czech Republic, Serbia, and Austria, but its looking to come to the U.S. and pair with a major credit card company. Here’s how it works:
"In a collaboration with MasterCard, LAKS owners can make payments from their watch at merchants with contactless sale terminals. MasterCard makes a small card that looks like a SIM card with an NXP secure element baked in, and issues it to the owner of the watch. When an NFC-enabled point of sale terminal recognizes the chip it deducts the purchase amount from the user’s Mastercard account," VentureBeat reported.
So where was Apple?
Apple wasn't there to respond to the LAKS smartwatch. As is always the case, Apple didn’t participate at CES, but it still had its chance to gain the same attention in the media today. One story cited sources saying the Apple Watch would go on sale in early March, another story provided details of a new 12-inch MacBook Air. Apple wasn't at CES, but it still got its products in the news.
VentureBeat said that CES served as a reminder that people are still waiting on what Apple has to say about the wearables industry, and suggested the rest of the industry is on hold until everyone sees whether Apple can attract a decent audience who cares about smartwatches.
"When it comes to new gadgets, there is Apple, and then there is everyone else," the Venture beat concluded.
Smartwatches that focus on technology, but not payments
As a hub for all things technology, CES was also a hub for smartwatches. But some companies releasing smartwatches have no plans to incorporate payments. Smartwatches remained a debate among exhibitors.
"We don't think [payment capability] is what a fashion-focused consumer wants," said Rob Pomponio, senior vice president for creative services at Guess Watches. Guess launched its smartwatch at CES that includes a microphone and speaker and accepts notifications.
Dozens of smartwatches were on display at CES, and even though Apple Watch wasn't there, people still talked about the device.
"I expect NFC in the Apple Watch for Apple Pay to be really big," said Kevin Harwood, a consulting architect at Mutual Mobile. "So far Samsung has skipped over NFC in its smartwatches, but that may change as it watches Apple."
Wocket: Another smart wallet makes a debut
Connecticut-based biometric authentication company NXT-ID officially launched its new smart wallet called Wocket, which was coined as "the world's first smart wallet."
The wallet is said to secure consumers' identity, replace cards in the wallet and doesn't need a smartphone or internet connection to work. It can hold up to 10,000 cards, tickets, coupons or contacts and works through voice command for an extra measure of security. The company says that Wocket protects personal data by "encrypting and storing it on its tamper-proof chip." Data is never transmitted from the device.
“Most consumers are familiar with the anxiety of losing a wallet filled with their cards, coupons and personal information. People connect with all the negative implications of this information being in the wrong hands,” said Gino Pereira, CEO of NXT-ID. “With Wocket, consumers finally have a convenient, attractive and secure modern solution to replace their wallet entirely, and never again need to endure the risks of carrying a traditional wallet."
Wockets are not currently in sale in stores as consumers must request an invite to buy a Wocket from on the company's website
LoopPay Card, CardCase and payment dongle on display at CES
The Massachusetts-based company made it's debut of it's LoopPay Card that lets consumers tap to pay with a Card and CardCase and a smaller key fob to make payments through the digital wallet. Although the news about these products was released prior to CES, consumers finally got to get their hands on one of Apple Pay's competitors.
Apple Pay dominated the talk of mobile payments in the latter half of 2014, but LoopPay showed up at CES to show consumers they have other options. LoopPay is compatible with older iPhones and some Android devices.
LoopPay also took the opportunity during CES to release news about its two new OEM partners that will embed LoopPay technology into its products to turn more smartphones into wallets. The two new OEM partners include XPAL Power, a manufacture of products for companies like Mophie and Belkin, and Trident Case, a phone case manufacturer.
“Consumer interest in mobile payments has skyrocketed recently. However, to reach widespread adoption and usage, consumers need a technology that’s secure and convenient. Convenient means letting consumers use the cards they want at the places they shop (what a wallet should do),” said Will Graylin, CEO of LoopPay. “We invented a solution that lets users digitize all of their cards and works virtually everywhere. We want to deliver the kind of convenience that can start shifting people to rely on their mobile wallets and leave their physical wallets at home.”
Copay Bitcoin Wallet makes debut at CES
Copay, an open source multi-signature bitcoin wallet platform, launched during the first day of CES. According to the company, BitPay has been steadily designing and building Copay since early 2014 for its own corporate use. The software is used for transactions that require multiple authorizations.
“This is one of our contributions to the Bitcoin technology,” said Stephen Pair, CEO of BitPay. “Microsoft’s support has enabled us to make our code available to a new group of developers and companies. We look forward to seeing how Copay evolves.”
Bitcoin itself made its mark at CES as it was showcased through the exhibit "The World of Bitcoin" that featured a 2,000-square-foot area with 10 virtual currency-related companies, including: BitPay, Bitman, Bitstamp, Blockchain, Circle, CoPay, Kraken, Private Internet Access, Robocoin and yBitcoin.
“Bitcoin is rapidly redefining financial and commercial paradigms,” said Emily Vaughn, Marketing Manager at BitPay.
CES 2015: The year to connect with consumers through wearable technology?
Mobile payments didn't top the list of the most talked about things at CES so far this year, but the devices that enable mobile payments and the technologies will be what's talked about throughout 2015.
CES is a hub (unless you're Apple) for electronics and technology innovation, but it also set the stage for discussions about NFC, mobile payments, wearables and cyber-security — all of which drastically impact the future of mobile commerce, payments and retail. That's what we learned from CES 2015.