If you're always frantically fishing through your pockets for cash or plastic to pay for coffee or lunch, a world-first suit with a payment microchip embedded in the sleeve could be what you need.
Its Australian makers describe it as “the world's most powerful suit”, and it's not hard to imagine the likes of James Bond or Maxwell Smart raising an eyebrow as you pay for lunch with a mere flick of your stylishly-attired wrist across a payWave terminal.
Menswear retailer MJ Bale devised the concept of sewing a small chip into the sleeve of a prototype run of suits, to see whether its customers would embrace the idea.
Other “wearable technology” innovations such as the face-mounted Google Glass computer have so far met with a mixed reception, but activity-sensing fitness bands worn around the wrist are becoming increasingly popular.
The chip in the sleeve of MJ Bale's “Samurai” suit is invisible and the company's managing director, Matt Jensen, says it was designed to protect the overall appearance of its tailored garments.
“What we wanted to do was look at ways of embracing technology, useability and wearability in a way that also reduces the requirement to carry things around like wallets,” he says.
“We thought that by putting a Visa payWave-accessible chip into the cuff, that it would not have so much heft or clutter in your pockets that bulk out the suit, altering the form and drape of the jacket.
“People are wearing things closer to the body, and Aussies are generally more athletic people so we want leaner-cut suits. So it does have a benefit there in terms of the silhouette.”
The garment chosen to showcase the “power suit” is among the company's finest – made from 90 per cent Australian Merino wool and 10 per cent cashmere, it is constructed by the company's tailors in Japan. Eventually, though, the technology could be included in any tailored suit the company makes.
It initially takes a couple of swipes and a slightly awkward (and possibly pretentious) wrist movement to enact a transaction, although the manoeuvre becomes more intuitive with practice.
The chip suffers no ill-effects from dry-cleaning, and Jensen says there's no greater risk of accidentally picking up the tab for lunch via an extravagant hand gesture than there would be with any payWave-enabled credit card in your hand.
MJ Bale teamed up with Visa and Queensland-based Heritage Bank for the pilot program but Jensen says eventually banks of the customer's choice would need to become involved if it put the payWave option into production.
“We're really trialling it, seeing how much traction it could get, and then from there we would develop things further,” Jensen says. “There's quite a bit of security measures that goes into the background of this.”
Security issues notwithstanding, it's not difficult to imagine microchips eventually being embedded into clothing, handbags or wristbands that could contain not just a payment option but also driver's licence, passport or workplace security access details that could make wallets and purses obsolete.
“I think there's more of this to come in clothing. Wearable technology is a really interesting part of our market for brands that build clothing,” Jensen says.
“We're still looking for other things that deliver technological or efficiency benefits to the wearer. Heat retention, water repellency, or more technological advances like how to interact with your iPhone - that is a more interesting use of technology while you're wearing it.”