What’s Different About This Ring Going Around Rio?

Jim Poole


A new kind of ring debuted at this month’s Summer Games, and this one doesn’t have a century of symbolism and sports history linked to it. But it is linked to a bank account.

A group of 45 Summer Games hopefuls, all sponsored by Visa, were given the wearable Visa payment ring to make purchases in and around Rio de Janeiro. The ring uses the same near-field communication (NFC) technology that enables users to make purchases with smartphones using “Pay” applications from Android, Apple or Samsung.

An athlete just taps the ring on an NFC-capable terminal, the money is withdrawn from their Visa account, and the transaction is complete. The ring obviously is quite a bit smaller than a smartphone and a sign of just how “mobile” mobile payments are becoming.

The ring’s the thing

Rings have had a strong tie to the Olympics since five interlocking rings – symbolizing the five continents that sent competitors to the games – debuted on the games’ official flag in 1920. So it’s no accident Visa introduced its payment ring at the Summer Games. (“As an Olympian, rings have a special meaning to me,” said Visa-sponsored swimmer and payment ring wearer Missy Franklin.)

This ring doesn’t require batteries or recharging, and it’s water resistant up to a depth of 50 meters. The NFC technology transmits a radio signal between the ring and payment terminal when they are close to each other, and the payment information is exchanged. It’s another option as people increasingly trade leather wallets for digital alternatives.

Business Insider projects the number of in-store mobile payment users will rise at a 40% compound annual growth rate to the end of 2020, when there will be 150 million total users. eMarketer predicts mobile payment transactions will total $27.05 billion by the end of 2016, more than triple last year’s total of $8.71 billion.

Interconnection needed

As the mobile payment trend accelerates, a tap of a smartphone or ring looks like a simple way to make a purchase, but it comes with hidden complexity. Think of how many parties are involved, from financial institutions, to mobile device makers, to retailers, all of whom must match a device to an account, verify the user’s funds and identity, and authorize the transaction in seconds.

The best way to ensure speed and user satisfaction is for the parties to interconnect in the same digital ecosystem, such as the global digital payments ecosystem inside of Equinix. All the different players can take advantage of proximate, direct and secure interconnection with their partners and markets. That means high speed, low-latency transactions that make paying with a mobile device a smooth experience.

Learn more about Equinix’s industry business ecosytems and how harnessing an Interconnection Oriented Architecture (IOA) can get you closer to wherever you need to be so you can meet your customers’ expectations. Whether or not they pay with a ring.