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Ready, set, touch-and-go: how contactless technology is enhancing our summer of sport

09 Aug 2016 08:11

The summer of 2016; a time when the nation struggles to work out whether we need our umbrellas or flip flops, while spending a large amount of free time cheering on our favourite athletes and teams…

Hot off the heels of Leicester City’s historic Premier League win, the UK has been immersed in sport. UEFA Euro 2016 provided a backdrop of frustration and surprise for football fans across the country, while Andy Murray secured his second Wimbledon win and gave spectators on Henman Hill or, now, Murray Mound something to shout about. And now, we’re heading to the other side of the world for a month of carnival-style fun at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. 

But it’s not just the pros that are warming up for a potential spot on the podium, as wearable fitness technology has given rise to amateur athletes hitting parks and pitches across the nation. We take a look at how these innovations are helping to make sport more accessible for all…

Getting physical 

Technology in sport and fitness is not a wholly new concept. Pedometers have kept track of our steps for years and, similarly, apps that count calories have been a staple of health fanatics’ smartphones for quite some time. But the explosion of wearable fitness technology has caused a surge in the public getting active.

One of the world’s best-known fitness tracker brands FitBit was created in 2007. Making wireless technology and sensors a unique selling point in its devices, Fitbit set out to change the way people viewed sport, fitness, and general wellbeing activities.

Since then, the technology and fitness industries have provided the public with a range of options when it comes to wearables. Whether it be devices for specific gym users, gender-focused trackers, or tech that fits in and around a certain lifestyle.

Take bPay loop for example; introduced to the bPay family in July 2016 and launched in partnership with the fitness technology brand Garmin. bPay loop fits over most straps with an open buckle, swiftly turning it into a contactless way to pay. This means that for people on a Sunday morning jog or daily bike ride, a quick pit stop to grab a juice or energy bar now requires no wallet or card…just their existing wearable device. Perfect for people who incorporate fitness as part of their busy lifestyles. 

bPay loop

Work it out with tech

But it’s not just bPay who is getting in on the action, so to speak. Last year, Virgin Active gyms began rolling out smart wristbands to its members. These wearables keep track of a user’s workout history and allow fitness fanatics to swipe in and out of the gym. But that’s not all, the wider picture of Virgin Active’s foray into the contactless world means that two tech-centric gyms located in central London now allow users to pair their fitness devices and apps with the gym equipment. Smarter technology means more informed workouts which means better fitness results; a win all round, surely?

One for the ladies

While there may be a range of wearable fitness technology available for savvy sportsmen and women to keep an eye on their PBs, there’s one in particular that has changed the playing field for these devices. Bellabeat’s LEAF is a female-focused device that tracks health and wellbeing. A beautifully elegant design appeals to the fashion conscious, while the technology integral to LEAF means a user’s sleep and mindfulness is measured alongside their daily activities, steps taken, and calories burned. With LEAF whipping up a storm of positive publicity, it surely won’t be long until consumers make the call for even more usability from their fitness devices; perhaps demanding useful technology, like contactless payments, to be included as a core feature.

Something for the fans

Even for those who prefer to sit on the sidelines and spectate, contactless has still infiltrated the world of sport. Take the Fritz Walter stadium in Kaiserslautern, Germany, where football fans can enjoy fast and simple payments via their mobile phone for snacks and refreshments before a game. Or how about the 2015 trial of contactless at Saracens rugby union club last year, in which the club’s Allianz Park stadium handed out pre-paid contactless wristbands for fans to purchase snacks and travel around the sporting venue. With more and more stadiums taking up contactless trials, cashless venues could be the way forward, lowering queuing times for spectators and facilitating safer crowd control.

Pubs and bars also look set to benefit from August’s month-long outpouring of sporting pride, as spectators flock to beer gardens to view our athletes on big screens. Along with jumping on the Tube to head from venue to venue, contactless provides fans with the simplicity and freedom to spend and support.

Wearable technology for the Olympic Games with Visa

With the eyes of the world on Rio during the coming month, it's no surprise that wearable technology is in the spotlight, as this easy way to pay will benefit both spectators and participators. Inspired by this, we’ve joined forces with Visa to provide bPay chips that power exclusive Team GB contactless paybands. Because if anyone can appreciate the need for speed, it’s these athletes; who’ll be able to touch and go thanks to these bespoke wearables.

Tami Hargreaves, Commercial Director, Digital Consumer Payments at Barclaycard, said:

“bPay removes the need to fumble around for cash or a card, making it ideal for busy athletes on the move who want a quick and easy way to pay. Contactless spending is growing at a rapid rate, and as the UK’s leading provider of wearable payment products, Barclaycard hopes its partnership with Visa will help make the lives of Team GB that little bit easier when they pay for goods and services.”

Team GB Wearable

So while our Olympians are busy putting the finishing finesses to their training, expect to see sports courts across the land, full with the nation’s fitness tech-wearing public… Or should we say athletes?