British start-up McLear offers contactless payments with £129 Smart Ring

Gadgets, Wearables

A British start-up has launched a new wearable contactless payment ring in a fresh attempt to change the way people pay for goods.

McLear’s Smart Ring, which is supported by the likes of Visa, allows users to connect their existing bank account with a dedicated app and pay for purchases of up to £30 per transaction by holding their hand against payment machine readers, in the same way contactless purchases are made with contactless bank cards, smartphones and smartwatches.

The arrival comes as UK shoppers show an increased desire towards contactless spending, with payments technology company Worldpay recently reporting that contactless overtook chip and pin for the first time in June this year.

“McLear Smart Ring is a payment device that allows you to always ‘carry’ your wallet on your hand,” said Nicoli Prencipe, co-founder and chief executive.

McLear's Smart Ring
McLear’s Smart Ring (McLear/PA)

“Whether you are quickly moving through the Tube, going for a job or have your hands full, payments can be made with a stunningly simple tap of your hand. It requires no buttons, FaceID, or fingerprint scanning to use.”

The Smart Ring never needs to be charged, makes no noises or vibrations and is water resistant. McLear is making the device available in 20 finger sizes, available in the UK first for £129, before rolling out to the rest of Europe and the US in late 2019, and Japan in 2020.

Users can load funds onto their ring using the app, either by manually topping up their account or by adding an automatic setting that will add money onto the ring for them when funds are low.

There is currently a 1% fee for each time money is loaded onto the ring, but the company said it is working to remove this soon. Only Visa or Mastercard accounts can be added, meaning American Express users are excluded for the moment.

McLear's Smart Ring
McLear’s Smart Ring is available in black and white colours, in 20 ring sizes (McLear/PA)

Each ring uses an anonymity security feature in a bid to protect user’s personal information and reduce the risk of fraud. It does this by creating an isolated bank account that sits between any of cards loaded onto the app and the merchant.

Users are able to suspend their ring within the app instantly should they lose it.

McLear’s first ring, the NFC Ring, started life as a Kickstarter campaign in 2013, designed to unlock smart doors, mobile phones and to transfer information. Mr Prencipe said it would introduce some of these features and new ones via future updates. He also said adding retailers’ loyalty programmes is a “big part” of their ambitions.

As well as Visa, the start-up has partnered with digital security firm Gemalto and manufacturer Infineon.

McLear will be up against a small number of other start-ups who have already developed smart payment rings, such as K Ring, which cost about £30 less.

Chris Price
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