Handy accountant

Now, a wrist-watch that keeps track of your expenditure

Published: Monday 30 June 1997

WATCHES with brains tend to be the stuff of science fiction. But soon you will be able to buy a drink with your watch and, if you over-indulge, use it to check where your money went. This is the prospect being offered by Swatch, the Swiss watchmaker, which aims to develop new applications for Swatch Access, the 'ski pass on the wrist'.

Swatch Access is based on the (RFID) radio frequency identification technology. RFID, a radio-based minicomputer, is used for locking cars, tagging animals, charging motorists on toll roads and marking railway containers. Inside an otherwise normal Swatch is a microchip developed by Swatch's sister company, Marin. This stores data and has a sensor ring - a kind of radio antenna. This allows the ski pass data to be stored in the chip, and signals to the ski-lift gate to let the wearer through.

The watch costs about 30 pounds and can be reprogrammed repeatedly for use at different resorts. The device is already used at 360 ski resorts in 30 countries worldwide. The system provides a contact-free entry method, working independently of the watch battery.

Swatch is now putting a wide range of a city's attraction and services on the Access, including hotels, restaurants, tourist sites and buses. Hand-held terminals are being used in restaurants, for example, to debit the cost of a meal from the watch, and it could also be used as a Credit card.

Other possibilities include linking the device to a laptop computer at a hotel's reception desk to enable the user to'check in. At this stage, Swatch Access ig being seen as supplementary to smart- cards. Swatch wants to concentrate on sports, tourism and transport applications rather than high-security entry j systems, where technologies such as facial or iris recognition systems are emerging.

Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.