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Coin Builds a Bridge, Can it Cross the Divide?

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Coin, a smart credit card that promises to eliminate wallet-bulge, is an idea so smart it might help itself become obsolete.

A truly novel and exciting innovation crossed a lot of screens yesterday, as news of Coin broke.

Imagine, all of those credit cards, debit cards, gift cards, and loyalty cards making your wallet bulge loaded on to one smart card that can be run through virtually any card-reader. That’s Coin.

A button on the face of the Coin card toggles between all the cards you have stored. You load them onto the card using a card reader that plugs into your phone. Leave your coin behind and your phone alerts you once you’ve walked out of range. Pretty damn genius, and the video rollout makes a strong case for proliferation.

Coin will retail for $100 and the internal battery lasts for two years, making it a bit of investment. While Time magazine calls it an “ongoing expense” it’s fair to wonder if Coin in its current form will even exist in two years.

The problem Coin so sweetly solves is one that persists as the world tries to reconcile aging analog solutions with new digital capabilities. As a side effect of its awesomeness, Coin points out that a wallet full of credit cards feels a little more ridiculous every day in a world where smartphones can manage interactions far more complex that transferring credit data.

Like Square—which has liberated many small businesses by putting the power to run credit and debit cards literally into the palm of your hand—Coin is a solution so good that it paves the way to making itself obsolete.

In his recent UX Magazine article The Internet of Things and the Mythical Smart Fridge” Avi Itzkovitch imagines a world where products tagged with radio frequency identification (RFID) tags will make every single piece of merchandise a unique little information beacon.

“This technology will enable consumers to shop without standing in a checkout line,” he writes. “Simply by placing items into an RFID-enabled cart, the consumer will know the total cost of his or her groceries and will be able to pay with a swipe of a phone and a smile.”

This alternate reality, or one similar to it, doesn’t seem too far away on the horizon, and in the most comprehensive look at Coin so far, Nick Statt, a staff writer at CNET, brings this point to Coin CEO and founder Kanishk Prashar.

 

As for whether or not Coin will be part of the inevitable future in which payments are all consolidated and likely done so on our smartphones, Parashar is not so much short-sighted as he is focused “Right now the only thing I think about is delivering these and having them function,” [Prashar] said. “When it comes to the future, we’ll make a decision based on where we lay in the land. But we pack all the technology inside Coin to generate next-generation experiences.”

So while Coin’s future might be uncertain, with an idea this good, it’s not hard to imagine a pivot that keeps them in the game.

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