A worker demonstrates a mobile payment system at the Visa Inc. stand at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, on Feb. 22, 2016.
Pau Barrena—Bloomberg/Getty Images
By Abigail Abrams
February 16, 2017

Millions of people already buy things through their phones using systems such as Apple Pay or PayPal every year. But soon you might be able to buy products and pay for services through all kinds of devices — even your shoes.

IBM wants to make this possible. So it’s teaming up with Visa, the company said Thursday, and using its Watson technology to turn everything from cars to watches to appliances into points of sale. This means any device that connects to the Internet could feature secure payment options. In the next five years, IBM said, it aims to support as many as 20 billion devices.

If it works, a driver could be alerted when an Internet-connect car’s warranty is about to expire or specific parts need replacing, for example. Then the driver could push a button to order new parts or schedule a tune-up. Similarly, a wireless chip could let runners know when they need new shoes, IBM said. Then the technology could recommend a new pair with price information from a preferred retailer.

The company envisions that customers would have access to Visa payment services through the IBM Cloud, allowing them to create a network of personalized payment systems. This does mean your payment information would be transmitted more frequently, but Visa and IBM said they have security measures in place. Customer information remains safe through Visa’s Token Service, they said, which replaces sensitive account information with a unique digital identifier that can be used to process payments without exposing actual account details.

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