Oura smart ring could let you make contactless payments in the future

·3-min read
Oura’s latest acquisition could put contactless payments on your finger (Oura)
Oura’s latest acquisition could put contactless payments on your finger (Oura)

Oura, a smart ring beloved by Prince Harry and Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, could receive a useful upgrade in the near future.

Thanks to a recent acquisition, the company behind the miniature wearable now has the ability to add contactless payments to its list of features.

If you don’t know what an Oura is exactly, think of it as a fitness tracker that slips on your finger.

The latest version of the smart ring, the Oura Ring Gen3, can monitor your sleep, activity, recovery, temperature, heart rate, stress, and more. The battery lasts seven days and the ring is water-resistant and lightweight. The wearable costs $349 (£280), plus a $5 (£4) monthly subscription.

Next up, it could add contactless payments to its bumper range of functions.

Oura recently announced that it had snapped up Proxy, a digital identity startup that was quietly working on tech that lets you store everything from cards to passwords to digital keys on mobile devices and wearables. As part of the acquisition, Proxy’s key personnel, including its founders will reportedly join Oura.

Teasing how the deal will benefit its own products, Oura CEO Tom Hale said: “We are thrilled to collaborate with the innovative Proxy team to expand our addressable market, paving the way for new opportunities in areas such as payments, access, security, identity, and beyond.”

In theory, that means you could soon use an Oura ring to buy your shopping or travel on the tube by waving it over a payments reader. Smart devices such as the Apple Watch and smartphones already offer this function courtesy of a short-range wireless technology known as near-field communication, or NFC.

The tech relies on a chip that contains a specific radio frequency. When two of these chips are close together, they can create a contactless connection between devices. This enables the transfer of information, such as transaction data.

Oura would also need to activate connections with services such as Google Pay or Apple Pay, or by developing its own digital wallet in the vein of Fitbit Pay. You’d then be able to add your debit or credit cards to the Oura app to make them available for use through the smart ring.

Where Fitbit and other device-based payment services differ from card payments is through their use of “tokenisation”. This means that unlike your bank, Fitbit Pay does not get access to your account details when you make a payment.

Instead, the details are tokenised, which is another way of saying that they are replaced with a randomly generated number. The feature is viewed as a secure means of preventing your financial details from falling into the wrong hands — for instance, if your device is hacked.

Though some smart rings already pack NFC chips, they aren’t as well known or as popular as Oura’s. One of these wearables, the Pagopace, is available in Germany and Switzerland for €99, but it lacks health and wellbeing features. You can check out how it works in the video above.