The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) has expanded its central bank digital currency (CBDC) pilot to include a contactless ‘hard wallet’ and NFC wearables that enable consumers to make in-store and transit fare payments with their digital yuan.
The digital yuan hard wallet resembles a conventional smart card and allows users to store and make contactless NFC payments with the digital currency without needing to use a digital wallet on a mobile phone.
A small screen embedded in the card enables them to view their card balance and payments record.
The device is being tested at Tongren Hospital in Shanghai and has been designed to make it possible “for people who have difficulty in using smart terminals to use digital renminbi and realise the possibility of crossing the digital divide.
Customers can apply to use the digital currency to purchase any products with a digital RMB hardware wallet or "digital currency chip card."
The first digital yuan transaction on the platform was made by Yu Yiming, a respiratory physician from the hospital who diagnosed the first case of COVID-19 in Shanghai.
The transaction is processed by touching the card to the acceptance terminal and a built-in digital screen on the e-wallet card will showcase the consumption amount, balance and payment times.
“This pilot is the first time to realise a hard wallet payment model that is separated from mobile phones after mobile phone scanning and touch payment in Shenzhen and Suzhou.”
This pilot project marks the first test of the digital RMB hardware wallet in smart cards form, meaning that if there is no mobile network or phone devices the payment can still be processed, which is expected to benefit the elderly who have limited access to smartphones, experts said.
PBOC has also begun testing digital yuan payments using a variety of contactless wearable devices in Beijing in preparation for a wider pilot in the Chinese capital during the 2022 Winter Olympics.
The devices include “ultra-thin card wallets, visual card wallets and badges, watches, bracelets and other wearable device wallets
The test devices were launched on the Beijing Metro, where “invited experiencers such as [figure skating champion] Shen Xue opened a digital RMB wallet after downloading the digital RMB application at the Bank of China Daxing Terminal Branch and recharged, and then successfully purchased a subway ticket on the subway internet ticket recharge machine,” the publication adds.
“Shen Xue used a wearable device ski glove wallet to swipe the subway gates through the NFC function, which is convenient and quick.”
Beijing Daily states that foreign visitors to the Winter Olympics will be able to use digital yuan during the event and that Beijing is working with PBOC to “accelerate the expansion of more digital RMB application scenarios around the 2022 Winter Olympics, and build a legal digital currency pilot zone and a financial technology application scenario pilot zone”