Fitbit acquires Coin's wearable payments technology assets

By Aditi Pai
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Fitbit has acquired the assets of smart payment company Coin’s wearable payments platform as well as the intellectual property. Fitbit also hired key personnel from the Coin wearable payments platform team. The acquisition was completed on May 12.

The acquisition will allow Fitbit to integrate an near-field communications (NFC) payment feature into future Fitbit devices, though the company said there are no plans to add these features into any products launched in 2016.

“We are focused on making wearable devices that motivate people to reach their health and fitness goals, and that also make their lives easier with the smart features they need most,” said James Park, CEO and co-founder of Fitbit. “Coin has been one of the key innovators in advanced payment solutions. The inclusion of their payment technology into our offerings will further our strategy of making Fitbit products an indispensable part of people's lives.”

The assets acquired do not include any assets related to Coin’s smart payment products, like Coin 2.0, which is a tech-enabled device that looks like a credit card and syncs with all of the user’s existing credit and debit cards. That device allows users to choose any credit or debit card, swipe their Coin device, and pay using their selected method.

Coin explained in a blog post that the company will not continue sell its smart payment products, like Coin 2.0, and the product will be supported for users for the duration of its battery life (two years).

Once it integrates Coin's technology, Fitbit will be one of many wearable companies that offer payment features via their devices.

One of the more high profile announcements came from Apple, which announced in September 2014 that it had added Apple Pay, the company's payments offering, to its Apple Watch.

About a year later, Jawbone unveiled its newest activity tracking device, the UP4, a $199 wristworn wearable with NFC integration that allows users to make payments if they have American Express.

Fitbit made a few other news announcements today.

The company announced the availability of its devices in China. The launch is part of an online retail deal that Fitbit inked with Tmall.com, a site operated by China-based ecommerce giant, Alibaba, to sell its devices. The goal of the agreement is to expand Fitbit’s reach in China. Tmall aims to help Fitbit reach “10 million fans in Asia”, according to the press release. To kick off this partnership, Tmall is hosting a Fitbit Super Brand Day today that promotes the company's newest devices, the Blaze and Alta devices.

In other news, Fitbit, along with the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT), announced today that it has released a report that looked at how companies that collect large amounts of personal health data should conduct internal research. The research project was first announced in February 2015 and received $50,000 from Calit2. The report includes a set of recommendations that provide wearable companies with specific guidance on "privacy practices around user data, internal company operations, and the potential broader societal impact of applying good data practices during the R&D process."

Finally, in product news, Fitbit released an app update for Google's Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P devices that uses the Android Sensor Hub to automatically track movement without using a lot of power, according to Engadget. This feature, called MobileTrack, was first announced in early 2014.