Minority Report: The Tech Life

PUT A RING ON IT: Etisalat has recently introduced futuristic devices at Dubai's GITEX 2016, such as the smart ring and smart microchip as wearable devices which can store a person's contact details, biometrics and credit card details to facilitate the exchange of information and payment options.

Advanced wearable devices make exchanging information easier

By Leila Hatoum 

Walking around Dubai’s GITEX exhibition this year, nothing from the wide array of “tech” products on display caught my attention, or enticed me enough to stop and ask questions.

The event itself is the largest technology exchange and marketplace for Middle East and Africa, with the latest and greatest gadgets and gizmos available at hand.

“Great,” I told myself. “This will be another event with nothing to cover, really.”

At least that was what I thought, until I bumped into a middle-aged gentleman who was waving his hand against a screen and all his data—and I mean everything, from his biometrics to his business card and credit card details—were displayed on that luminous screen before my eyes.

He had nothing in his hands, no gloves, no special watch, and no magic wand, except for that invisible microchip implanted under the skin between his thumb and index fingers of his left hand.

That microchip contained all his information, including credit cards’ details, his ID, his business card, biometrics, his fingerprints and much more. And for those who are just like me and go weak in the knees the moment they see a needle, the information can be stored on an elegant black smart ring that works the same as the microchip.

Phew! No need for surgeries there.

The Etisalat smart ring is a Near Field Communication (NFC) enabled finger ring with payment technology. But the question remains: Will this microchip and the ring work anywhere?

George Held of Etisalat’s innovation team, who also happens to be the man with the microchip grafted under his skin, explains to me that the microchip as well as the ring will work as payment options in the future. “All you have to do is swipe your hand or the ring against a payment machine and the transaction will be done,” he says.

And it is not only payment that is made easy. These smart devices will also help save the environment.

Instead of printing thousands of business cards, plastic IDs and credit cards and the like, all you have to do is save the templates on your smart ring or microchip and simply tap them against another person’s smart ring to exchange information. His or her credit card will be saved on your ring and vice versa.

“But what if the other person also gets your credit card details during the swipe?” I asked with genuine concern, given the fact that I was contemplating on buying a similar ring.

“Well, there are three buttons on the ring: One for the credit card details, one for your business card details and one for your biometrics,” says Held.

He further explains that the ring gives one the option of tapping any button they want to exchange the specific information they need to relay to others, and nothing more.

And get this: the connected jewelry did not require battery charging, as opposed to many other similar devices in the market.
Moreover, the device is completely water-proof (IP68 level), dust-proof and fall-proof.

So in a region where sandstorms are frequent, and sunny days give you the option of frequenting the beach more often, this ring is just perfect. Now for butterfingered people like me, that third option of being fall-proof is just sublime.

For those who were eagerly waiting to ask for the price of the device and its launch date in the Arab gulf market, the answer is disheartening.

“The new connected ring was part of Etisalat’s themed presentation of futuristic solutions at the event this year, aimed to spark innovation and stimulate the adoption of advanced digital technologies for a better, more connected future,” according to Etisalat’s team.

Though hundreds of VIPs attending GITEX 2016 received their smart rings from Etisalat, to use around the exhibition without having the need to carry any identification on them, yet for the non-VIPs like myself, all I have to do to get one is either mug a VIP or wait till perhaps the ring is available for sale by 2020, the time when Dubai hosts Expo 2020.

I do not mind the wait, because hey, how cool is it not to hold any credit cards on you? And for those who opt for the microchip, they would be a tad luckier, especially when someone tries to mug them and they raise their hands up to say: “I have nothing on me.”

But it still gives me the chills to plant something under my skin, and I don’t know about you, but I’m sure many of you have watched the sci-fi movie Minority Report where Tom Cruise plays the role of a detective in the year 2054; and where humans can be tracked via their body organs, as well as microchips grafted under their skin… spooky!

“Have we really reached that age where everyone will start having implanted chips in their bodies?” I wonder.

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