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6/2/2006
04:48 PM
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MasterCard Watch Lets World Cup Soccer Fans Pay On The Fly

Some people like soccer. Some people like spending money. But if you're someone who likes soccer and spending money, you're in luck. A new wristwatch is on the way in honor of the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Germany that will let fans buy small-ticket items by waving the watch over a MasterCard reader, similar to the way MasterCard PayPass smartcard

Some people like soccer. Some people like spending money. But if you're someone who likes soccer and spending money, you're in luck. A new wristwatch is on the way in honor of the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Germany that will let fans buy small-ticket items by waving the watch over a MasterCard reader, similar to the way MasterCard PayPass smartcards and tokens work. The skeptic in me says this will boost transaction fraud like nobody's business. But my more curious side wants one of these timepieces in a way I haven't felt since that clunky watch I had 20 years ago that played primitive video games and weighed about 5 pounds.It's taken a lot of moving parts to produce this PayPass watch, and I'm not talking about the gears that make the hands move. MasterCard supplied the PayPass technology that offers "contactless" payment for purchases of less than $25. Chinatrust Commercial Bank will offer these watches to its Taiwanese consumers, allowing them to make purchases by simply "tapping their arm on a MasterCard PayPass terminal," a press release informed me. The watch is designed by Austrian watchmaker Laks GmbH and On Track Innovations Ltd., which makes contactless microprocessor-based smartcard technology.

The watches will come in green, blue, and orange colors and feature little soccer balls on their face--a face that features hands, I might point out, not a digital display. I can't think of any better way to celebrate the world's most popular sport than by letting its fans more easily spend their hard-earned money.

The Chinatrust 2006 FIFA World Cup MasterCard PayPass watches will allow consumers to shop at more than 400 merchant outlets in Taiwan, including Wellcome Supermarket and IS Coffee outlets, as well as about 30,000 merchant locations around the world.

One security aspect that the whole PayPass technology hasn't addressed is, what happens when someone steals your watch and starts buying all his or her friends' half-time refreshments on your tab? If you spend less than $25 at a time, you don't have to sign for the purchase or show ID. Shouldn't there be some way to protect the watch's owner against that? I guess the same is true if you lose your cell phone--people can eat through your minutes until you call your provider and cancel your account--but that doesn't mean this lack of security is acceptable. Even if MasterCard promises to wave any charges in dispute, this could become an expensive proposition that customers ultimately wind up paying for in one way or another.

Until they come up with a solution to this security oversight, and because I don't live in Taiwan, I think I'll pass on this latest piece of futuristic jewelry and stick with my aliens-versus-us video game watch.

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