Protean Echo Is the Last Payment Card You’ll Ever Need

How many debit, credit, loyalty or other magnetic strip cards do you have in your wallet?  The Protean Echo is a concept designed to lighten your  wallet, but in a good way. Due to be put up as a funding project on Kickstarter in Winter, the Echo system allows you to scan all your magnetic data from your cards into your smartphone and then sync any three cards to your Echo. By pressing one of the three buttons on the card, the Echo takes on the “personality” of that card. The Echo can then be swiped just like you would normally with your card. You can easily sync the Echo to your phone to change cards at any time.

To me, there’s still a number of security issues to take in to consideration here, but at an expected cost of between $80 – $100 it certainly looks like an interesting concept.

Posted in: Miscellaneous, News, Wallets

{ 9 comments… add one }

  • Keith Anderson August 13, 2012, 9:28 am

    A neat idea, but let me be blunt:
    OH HELL NO!

    A device that effectively clones credit cards? What’s to stop anyone I hand my credit card to from taking a surreptitious swipe and adding my card to their library? Credit cards have all kinds of security features today- holograms, extra digits that are printed or embossed on, but not encoded on the strip, a signature strip, he’ll even my name emobossed on. If I use a card with a person, they can check my ID, and compare signatures. With this thing, I could download a library of stolen card information and just keep trying until one works. You know someone will crack the system to make this possible.

  • Jim August 13, 2012, 11:08 am

    Sorry to be negative but isn’t it about 5 years too late? Can’t speak for the States but up here in Canada swipe-only cards are getting very rare (the banks are going chip-and-pin and retailers aren’t far behind.) Once the majority are c&p, the next step is to remove the swipe from the cards completely.

    I was about to say it would be used for library and gym memberships but both of mine us bar-codes.

  • JT August 13, 2012, 12:14 pm

    If you want to carry fewer cards a company called Wallaby Financial has a better idea. You register your credit cards with them and they send you one card. When you pay for something they use some AI to determine which card to use to maximize your rebates, points, etc based on your preferences.

    While I like the idea I don’t think I would ever use it. One security breach on their end or simply lose your card results in ALL of your cards being compromised.

  • Matt August 13, 2012, 12:34 pm

    Speaking as someone who works for a company that handles tens of thousands of credit and debit card transactions per day, this is a bad idea. There would be plenty of people upset that companies won’t accept these sort of cards because we would have no way to verify that the person using the card is the owner of the account. Chip & Pin is a much better payment solution. For something inconsequential like a gym membership or restaurant loyalty card, perhaps, but three options wouldn’t be enough.

  • Tim Parris August 13, 2012, 12:38 pm

    Significant problems with this and forget about the issue of security. The magnetic data is going away… Here in Canada the only places still using the black strip are American companies operating in Canada. Canadian companies have, by and large, switched over to chip technology. This card doesn’t work here.

  • Alan August 13, 2012, 2:27 pm

    Despite all the above mentioned problems, I like the look of the card and would love to have one in my wallet as a single chip and pin version.

  • DStaal August 13, 2012, 6:57 pm

    Chip+Pin is popular everywhere but the USA. (It’s more secure, for one thing…)

    It never caught on in the USA because for some reason the card companies decided that – in the USA – they would charge the retailers extra for chip+pin transactions. Which means that no retailer wants to accept them, so they are mostly useless because no one has a reader for them.

  • Chris August 14, 2012, 3:57 am

    Chip & PIN is coming to the states along thankfully for them is PCI. Both will help secure the US card data that gets pinched so often.

    Chip & PIN will make this and other swipe devices / technology redundant in a fairly short period of time.

    Its a shame as this is a great idea, but not one that will be usable. In the UK most merchants wont allow swipe and sign transactions unless they really have to ( normally the card decides if its okay ) and they pay extra per transaction for them as opposed to a Chip & PIN transaction, and they take more risk!

  • Chris Bartenstein August 16, 2012, 4:32 am

    Hey guys, always nice to get feedback on our product concept. As a Co-Founder of Protean, the company behind Echo, I wanted to clarify a couple things.

    First, Echo cannot be used to skim cards. Echo only mimics payment cards registered under the name of an authenticated user. In fact, Echo is actually a lot more secure than standard cards. Echo locks down when it goes out Bluetooth range of it’s synced phone and requires a pin to activate for use. So, if you lose your phone, you’ll card information will remain secure.

    Second, Echo will unfortunately not be able to emulate chip and pin, which means we won’t initially be able to provide Echo to customers in Canada, most of Europe, Australia and a number of other regions. However, we don’t believe the magstripe standard is going anywhere anytime soon in the US, which is our primary market. Check out our thoughts on the matter here: http://proteanpayment.org/?p=248.

    We would like to support chip cards in the future and plan explore the possibility of partnering with card issuers to enable us to do so.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Feel free to shoot me an email at cbartenstein@getprotean.com if you have any additional questions or concerns.

    — Chris

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