Exploring innovation value by experimenting

Piet Verhoeve with rings


In my professional life, I meet tons of people, and while our first encounters are usually all about work, I'm a big fan of getting to know them on a more personal level too. It's pretty cool how some connections that start off strictly business can evolve into genuine friendships over time.

One sure sign that a connection is getting deeper is when someone gets curious or brave enough to ask about the rings I wear. These rings are pretty special to me because they represent my two biggest loves: my family and technology. On one hand, I have my engagement and wedding rings—yeah, the traditional stuff that might seem a bit old-school. On the other hand, I've got a couple of techy rings that have become part of my life because they're just so darn useful.

As I've mentioned before (go to article), I set aside money every year to dive into the latest tech gadgets, looking to see what's genuinely useful beyond all the hype. Among these, two rings stand out:

OURA, for health monitoring
Tapster, for payments and car access

So, which one sparks your curiosity?

Alright, let's dive deeper get into the nitty-gritty of these two cool tech rings that have become pretty much part of my daily gear. Each of these rings isn’t just a fancy piece of tech bling; they actually do stuff that makes my life easier and, dare I say, healthier. We’re going to kick things off by checking out the Oura ring, which is like having a personal health coach wrapped around my finger. After that, we’ll take a look at the Tapster ring, my go-to for quick payments and getting into my car without fumbling for keys or cards.

Ready to find out how these small gadgets deliver some serious perks? Let’s dive in!

My oura experience

I got my first Oura ring from a Kickstarter campaign, intrigued by the sleep tracking feature and the novelty of a wearable tech that wasn't just another watch. The Oura ring offered more than insights into my sleeping habits; it resonated with my love for watches—not wearing them all at once, but owning several to choose from. This allows me to pick a watch that suits my mood, the day's activities, or my outfit. This love for variety was something I stumbled upon during my exploration of smartwatches, where the monotony of wearing the same watch every day led me to move away from smartwatches altogether.

However, focusing back on the ring, after the usual long wait associated with Kickstarter campaigns, it finally arrived. It lived up to its promise, tracking my activities and sleep with surprising depth. It revealed how late meals or drinks could affect my rest, and it even helped me detect early signs of illness.

The best part was that it allowed me to continue my daily ritual of choosing the perfect watch to wear without missing out on valuable health insights.

The original limitation of not tracking heart rate during activities was a downside, but that was addressed with the release of the third-generation Oura ring, which I quickly adopted. It has firmly established itself as a staple in my daily routine, seamlessly integrating with my varied collection of watches, ensuring I never have to compromise on style for the sake of health tracking.

My payment ring adventure

My journey into the world of payment rings kicked off back in early 2018 when my bank, KBC, decided to shake things up by testing out payment wearables. They were trying out everything - from watches and keychains to pendants and rings, and I lucked out by getting picked to rock a payment ring.

I had to drive over to this special event to get fitted for the ring and learn how to use it. Since this was all official and test-like, they wanted me to use it pretty much everywhere and fill out surveys about how it was going.

And so, my payment ring saga began. My K-ring turned into my new go-to for buying stuff. But it wasn't all smooth sailing. I'm not even talking about the strange looks and the load of questions from cashiers surprised by my futuristic paying method. Those did reduce over time, but even now I still catch an eyebrow raise or a question here and there.

Figuring out the quirks of different payment terminals became my new hobby. Learning where their antennas were, how to angle my ring just right since it wasn't quite as sensitive as a regular card and dealing with the fact that my fingers didn't always want to cooperate like a flat card would.

The cool part was the ring worked on the global payment standard, making it super handy for trips. But back home in Belgium, we also had this older payment system that just didn't play nice with my ring. It was hit or miss at the supermarket depending on which system the cashier picked. Made it feel like my ring was more reliable abroad than at home.

Despite the hiccups, I found some perfect moments for the ring: breezing through subway ticket purchases in crowded spots, grabbing a beer on a sunny terrace without digging through my wallet, or even for those quick pit stops at highway restrooms. It was a game-changer for those small, on-the-go payments since I hardly ever carry cash.

After a year of testing and surveying, the bank launched the ring as a full-blown service. And as a thank you for my test pilot days, I got to keep my ring. It was great until one day, it just stopped working. I thought it was the old Belgian system acting up, but nope, nothing worked. Turned out, the bank had pulled the plug on the whole wearable experiment and deactivated them without a heads-up.

Missing the convenience for small buys, I hit the web looking for a replacement. The K-Ring was nowhere to be found, and other options didn't work with my bank. Just as I was about to throw in the towel, I stumbled upon the Tapster. Not only did it handle payments, but it could also unlock my Tesla M3.

Talking about a heart-skipping moment! The only drawback was it still didn't line up with my bank. Lucky for me, they had a list of compatible internet banks available. So, I ended up buying a Tapster and opening a Revolut account to get that sweet, sweet convenience of quick payments back in my life.