Fitbit Makes Move Toward Finance Technology

The company has acquired intellectual property from Coin as it prepares to offer mobile payments on its fitness trackers.
Katie Kuehner-HebertMay 18, 2016

Fitbit has taken a step toward adding new features to its wearable fitness trackers some time next year by acquiring mobile payment technology from Silicon Valley startup Coin.

The deal includes “key personnel and intellectual property specific to Coin’s wearables payment platform,” Fitbit said, but it excludes the Coin 2.0 smart payment product. The financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

“Coin has been one of the key innovators in advanced payment solutions,” Fitbit CEO James Park said in a news release. “The inclusion of their payment technology into our offerings will further our strategy of making Fitbit products an indispensable part of people’s lives.”

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Fitbit said it does not plan to integrate Coin’s technology into its 2016 product lineup, but “the acquisition accelerates Fitbit’s ability to develop an active NFC [near field communication] payment solution that could be embedded into future Fitbit devices, broadening its smart capabilities.”

“It’s not difficult to imagine using a future Fitbit tracker as a mobile wallet for on-the-go purchases; smartwatches already do it, after all,” The Verge said.

Fitbit recently launched the Blaze smart fitness watch. “It’s not surprising that the company wants to integrate mobile payments into future products,” Ars Technica said, noting that “One of the biggest differences between standalone fitness trackers and all-purpose smartwatches is mobile payment support.”

“Although Fitbit’s devices are almost exclusively health- and fitness-focused, mobile payments could be a way of staving off competition from the Apple Watch,” AppleInsider said.

Jawbone has integrated mobile payments into its Up4 wristband, but only American Express cardmembers can use it. A joint venture between MasterCard and Coin would bring mobile payments to a bunch of fitness-related wearables, including the Atlas wristband, but according to Ars Technica, “there’s no word on whether that plan will continue now that Fitbit essentially owns that technology.”

The Coin 2.0 product allows users store multiple credit cards on a single device. The company said it will no longer be sold and existing units will only continue to work for the duration of their batteries, which is up to two years.

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