Coin wants to make wallets obsolete, and the days-old company has already obliterated its first hurdle. In under 40 minutes, Coin hit its $50,000 crowdfunding goal, putting it on pace to become one of the most successful hardware crowdfunding campaigns in history. So to commemorate its early success, the company on Wednesday announced some big new features coming to the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) card. We also spoke with Coin CEO Kanishk Parashar to address some of the product's biggest concerns.
Following Coin's unveiling, consumer response was overwhelmingly positive. But, as with anything new and different, it raised more questions than answers, particularly around security and Coin's "leashed" approach. First and foremost, Coin can work without being tied to a phone; users can simply go into the card's companion smartphone app and unlock it, meaning your Coin will work if your device runs out of battery or goes into airplane mode. This, in turn, also means you don't need your device on you at all times to use Coin, though there are benefits of having the two (your device and Coin) communicating, as the company demonstrated in a video last week.
Another big feature coming to the platform will be the ability to essentially "lock" a card to Coin, meaning a merchant or waiter can't mistakenly (or maliciously) charge the wrong card. Once you get your Coin back, simply unlock that card, and you'll be back to scrolling through your other cards stored on Coin. The company said someone else's card cannot be uploaded to their Coin, because the card information must match a user's personal information stored in the app; meanwhile, your full name will be printed on Coin, like a normal credit card, along with your signature on the back.
When Coin was first announced last week, one of the biggest concerns people had was how merchants would actually respond to it, if it does in fact come to market next year. Coin CEO Parashar told us that merchants have responded enthusiastically so far up in the Bay Area. It's worth noting that San Francisco is an ideal place to test new technology, as it's essentially the startup mecca of the U.S. Parashar said Coin hasn't directly approached retailers or other merchants, but he did reiterate that Coin looks like any old credit card, so ideally there shouldn't be any issues at the point of purchase.
"We've done some exploration and all has been received with great enthusiasm," Parashar told TechnoBuffalo, referring to retailer response. "In the future, when we make a Coin, it's going to have your name on it and signature panel on the back."
Finally, the last feature being announced by Coin today is that the card will remember how many times it's been swiped. The purpose of monitoring swipes is to avoid fraud, especially if it's out of a user's possession when it's unlocked; Coin can alert a user via the app if it suspects fraudulent behavior. In addition to this feature, Parashar said that Coin is password protected, and is 128-bit/256-bit encrypted for all storage and communication.
Right now, Coin is just trying to keep up with such overwhelming consumer response, which is why it's opening up another round of preorders. Parashar said that Coin is solely focused on delivering a product to the U.S., but there's a possibility the company could address overseas markets down the road. Coin is laser focused on delivering a product to early backers, though Parashar did admit there are still obstacles ahead. When asked what happens when someone loses or damages their Coin, Parashar hesitated, and said the company will do its best to address those issues over the coming months but that there's currently no plan in place to get replacements out ASAP.
Coin isn't expected to ship its first batch until summer 2014, and the second in fall 2014. We asked if Coin would ever be available at major retailers, such as Best Buy, but Parashar said that no retail partnerships are planned just yet.
Even though Coin has received funding to begin production and fund its wallet-less future, it's obvious the hard part is yet to come. It's clear Coin and its team are still figuring out exactly what the product can do, and what features to include. Hopefully over the next several months we'll see it continue to take shape, because one card to rule them all sure sounds like a future I want to be a part of.
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