Visa launching NFC payments ring
Ringing up payments, quite literallyVisa

Forget paying with your smartphone: Visa has just launched an NFC-enabled ring you can slip on your finger and use to make contactless payments. The experimental device will be trialled by athletes at the 2016 Rio Olympics, which kicks off on 5 August.

Visa's NFC ring features a secure microchip manufactured by Nertherlands-based security firm Gemalto alongside an embedded NFC antenna, which together allow for contactless payments. Unlike traditional payment-making wearables, however, the ring doesn't require a battery, meaning it never needs to be recharged.

The device uses tokenisation technology for making secure payments. Instead of relying on any identifiable account details such as the 16-digit card number, Visa's Token Service replaces this with a unique digital identifier or "token" to process payments. This means sensitive banking details remain hidden during the transaction. It's a similar system to that used in Apple Pay.

Other than that, the ring works much like a contactless card or mobile payment systems like Android Pay: simply hold the ring over an NFC-enabled payment terminal for a few seconds and the payment is processed automatically. As an added bonus the ring, which has been designed by UK-based start-up McLear & Co, is waterproof up to 50 metres.

A prototype of the ring was unveiled at an event in New York City on 2 June, and will be handed out to Team Visa athletes at the Rio Games this summer. One such athlete, US Olympic gold medallist Missy Franklin, said: "As an Olympian, rings have a special meaning to me. The Visa ring is a great innovation that I know all the athletes competing in Rio will enjoy as it will be great to go from a competition to purchase without having to carry a wallet or card."

Visa said it plans to install some 4,000 NFC-enabled payment terminals throughout key Olympic venues in preparation for the games. The company didn't specify whether the ring would ever reach consumers. However, a Visa spokesperson told IBTimes UK that it would "be using the Rio 2016 Games as a test and learn scenario, to help inform any next steps." This suggest that if all goes to plan, a wider introduction could be on the cards.

"Visa's first payment ring puts smart payment technology right on the hands of our athletes for convenient and easy payments," said Jim McCarthy, executive vice president of innovation and strategic partnerships at Visa. "This ring is the latest example of how Visa is continuously innovating to deliver on its goal of universal acceptance at the games and across the world."