As retailers around the world seek ways to make it easier for consumers to shop seamlessly without touching anything, one company in Japan is betting its technology can rule them all: a smart ring that can act as a wallet and a key.
MTG Co., a Japanese health and beauty company, has started selling the Evering, which it envisions as a one-stop digital wallet. The chip-embedded ring, made out of zirconia, the synthetic crystal that’s sometimes used in place of diamonds in jewelry, lets people lock their door as they step out for a run as well as pay for drinks in stores.
MTG earlier this month struck a contract with Visa Inc. for the sale of an initial batch of 3,000 rings in Japan.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made touchless payments a much more popular method of purchasing. Amazon.com Inc. is pushing into cashier-less stores and deploying technology that lets consumers enter shops and pay using palm scans. In Japan, Signpost Corp. has deployed stores that don’t have any clerks or registers in a kiosk on the platforms of a train stations. In China, technology that employs facial recognition software is already being used for payments.
“We want to make a world in which people can live with a ring,” Yoshihito Ohta, MTG’s chairman, said in an interview.
Evering users make payments by holding it over a payment terminal. Priced initially at ¥19,800 ($182) in Japan, the ring, which is waterproof and doesn’t require charging, is linked to a credit card, and payment histories can be accessed via smartphones.
MTG, which went public in 2018 on the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s Mothers Market, a bourse for startups, plans to spin off its smart-ring subsidiary within months, Ohta said. The chairman’s goal is for Evering to reach a market capitalization of at least ¥100 billion, which would be higher than MTG’s current valuation of ¥60.4 billion.
The company posted an operating profit of ¥1.2 billion in the latest fiscal year, which ended in September, recovering from a ¥14.4 billion deficit the prior period due to an accounting scandal at its China unit. MTG shares are up about 34% this year, after climbing 30% last year.
“The business has potential to grow,” Ohta said of Evering. “It’s risky, but I think no other business has bigger potential than this.”
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.