In the second of our series looking back at our Cashless on the Catwalk proof of concept (PoC) project with Henry Holland we explore the technology in more detail with Ranjiva Prasad.
I am the technical architect at Visa Europe Collab and it was my job to make sure the technology worked to deliver an immediate payment experience on the catwalk. When we start out with any POC project we always look at the bigger picture – what are the key themes here? What are the key concepts?
What are the key drivers? On this project from the beginning it was pretty obvious when talking to Henry and his team, it was all about theatre. The most important thing for Henry was making the tech invisible.
So how did I go about doing that? There were no out-of-the-box solutions. First I had to reach out to the right people and that led me to the start-up community. NFC Ring was the only company that I came across that had the capability and the competency to be able to put an NFC element into a beautiful piece of jewellery. They were joined by Miami based start-up Flomio who developed the mobile POS (point of sale).
NFC Ring founder John Mclear, who has successfully raised $250k via a crowdfunding campaign to fund its development, took on the challenge of integrating the technology with the ring. McLear had not attempted to make a ring that could make payments before but he decided to get involved when I outlined the details of the project. Henry Holland was delighted to discover that NFC Ring didn’t put any parameters on the team in terms of size so he could make the aesthetic decisions he wanted to. While they worked with Henry Holland on a lot of iterations in the lab using software they only ever actually made one ring iteration. The ‘industry standard’ way would be to make 20-30 rings until they found one that works, but instead it only took 20 days to get everything sorted.
Flomio made it possible for a model to walk down the catwalk, in the words of its CEO Daniel Berkowitz, with a “cash register literally attached to their clothes.” The company completed the project within the 100 day period allocated with just two redesign cycles. While it was incredibly challenging completing the work within that timeframe the opportunity for Flomio had been too exciting to turn down. “The fact that Visa Europe Collab was willing to use something innovative to solve a current challenge, allows us to develop technology that until now has not existed in the world,” said Berkowitz. “We manufactured a six layer chip, and it’s only because we had an angel on our shoulder like Visa Europe Collab that we could explore these kinds of really far-reaching next gen solutions.”
This was different to other PoC projects because there was no room for error. If we slipped a day in delivery the show would pass and we would miss the boat. And if there was any glitch on the night it would have ruined the entire experience, which put extra pressure on the teams involved. I admit I pushed the teams very hard. As the Flomio team said to me in a taxi on the way to the venue, “we’ve just had a week long hackathon. We’ve never done that before. Hackathons are usually 24 hours or a weekend!”
Collaboration between the parties was the key to making the whole project come together. We saw the value in people meeting face-to-face, and not having Visa Europe Collab at the centre of every single decision, allowing other parties that we’d introduced to go off and work together, and come back to us and say, “Okay, this is what we’re thinking, guys.” By working together and trusting each other we were able to deliver a payment terminal that could work with the Bluetooth and NFC technology and deliver the seamless, engaging and perfectly functioning tech that the product, Holland’s beautifully designed bespoke rings, deserved.