One ring to rule them all…or at least buy coffee.

There is a new wearable technology, and I am not completely negative on it. Don’t get me wrong: NFC payment rings (that you wear on your finger) are NOT going to be the Next Big Thing, and will not be more popular than smartphones or tablets. But I think that we may see millions of these on people’s hands by 2018, maybe even 25 million. Why might smart rings be more popular than smart watches such as the Apple watch or smart glasses such as Google Glass?

It is true that smart rings don’t do very much compared to smart watches or glasses. In my view, that’s not a bug, that’s a feature! While it is technologically possible to make a head wearable or wrist wearable show notifications and make calls and have a screen, the device ends up being big, bulky, noticeable and expensive.

On the other hand (as it were) a ring containing an NFC chip is only good for authentication. You could use it to make a payment, unlock your phone or front door or car door…and that’s about it. But since it does only one thing, it costs about $50, not $500. No battery. No reliance on a smartphone or Wi-Fi network. And almost no one would ever notice that you are wearing it.

Next, wrist wearables like fitness bands are kind of nags. They bug us to get off our butts and walk or run or exercise. Which is great, of course…but it is like pushing water uphill! Most people are lazy, and don’t want to move around more than necessary. Getting people to exercise is (sadly) harder than getting them to buy more stuff with an easier payment technology.

Speaking of uphill battles? Over the past 30 years tens of millions of people have stopped wearing things on their face. Over the last 10 years tens of millions of people have stopped wearing things on their wrists. Contact lenses and laser eye surgery have let many people get rid of glasses, and ubiquitous smartphones have let many people get rid of wristwatches.

Getting people to go back to wearing something they thought they had gotten rid of is hard; I think that is part of why sales of other wearable technologies have been so disappointing. But there has been no significant move away from wearing rings.

Finally, most of you won’t remember this, but finger-worn technology is not a new thing. In the 1970s, there was something called Mood Rings. They didn’t work well, were pretty unattractive, and were ruined if you got them wet. But they sold MILLIONS, and at a price that is equivalent to about $250 in today’s money.

I haven’t got a lot of data on this, since NFC ring tech is so new. But I have a hunch this wearable might actually surprise on the upside.

 

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