by George Nott

Meet the Sydney surfer behind Visa’s tap-and-pay sunglasses

Mar 21, 2017
Technology Industry

Visa’s headline-grabbing South by Southwest unveiling of a pair of sunglasses that can make contactless payments, was made possible thanks to a Sydney surfer, it has been revealed.

Visa’s prototype payments wearable WaveShades, launched at the Austin tech festival last week, carries a secure chip in the arm of the accessory, developed by Australian fintech start-up Inamo.

A founding resident of Sydney’s Stone Chalk startup incubator, Inamo is headed by a former agent for international surfing stars, Peter Colbert.

The concept for contactless payment sunglasses came to Colbert after surfing with friends at his local beach in Manly last year.

“It was my turn to pay for a round of coffees with friends and I realised I didn’t have any wallet or cash to pay,” he said. “I had a light bulb moment and thought: wouldn’t it be great if I could go surfing, even go for a run or bike ride and not have to carry my wallet or mobile phone. Wouldn’t it be really cool if I didn’t need to carry them around?”

“Using Inamo’s technology in sunglasses is a logical extension of our mission to move people’s wallets to a variety of wearables that suit their lifestyle.”

The shades drew much comment and some derision on Twitter, after they made headline at SXSW earlier this month.

Prior to the SXSW launch, Visa trialled the payments sunnies at St Jerome’s Laneway Festival music events in Adelaide, Brisbane, Fremantle, Melbourne and Sydney. “An edgy pair of sunglasses is a mainstay for music festival-goers, who also don’t always want to be weighed down with cash whilst dancing the day away,” Visa’s promotion said.

Further trials took place at the World Surf League’s 2017 Quiksilver and Roxy Pro Gold Coast competitions last week.

Although the WaveShades are not available for general purchase, Visa said they will consider trail data which could result in the shades “being offered for sale in the future”.

Here, there, everywearable

Colbert has since put the same near field communication (NFC) chip used in the WaveShades into his company’s Inamo Curl, a waterproof payment wearable that can be attached to watch and fitness bands. Colbert demonstrated in a video last year that the Curl can be used as an Opal card and used across the Transport for NSW system.

“Given that Australia is world-renowned for its beaches and surfing culture, it only makes sense that we are the leaders when it comes to inventing wearable, waterproof technology that does away with cash, cards and wallets,” Colbert said.

Transport for NSW are due to begin trials of a contactless transport payment solution – whereby travellers can tap their credit or debit card rather than their Opal – this year. The agency contracted Cubic Transportation Systems – who successfully transitioned London’s Oyster system to contactless – to design, build and operate the trial system at a cost of $10 million.