Forty minutes after the Coin crowdfunding campaign was thrown open, they crashed through the target of $50,000. Tweets about Coin were flying around at the rate of one per every five seconds, and their Youtube video now has 6.67 million views. The correlation between successful startups and their crowdfunding or social network popularity is not a precise science, but if you judge Coin by that standard, it’s already a smash hit.
Obviously there are good underlying reasons why Coin pledges were grabbed faster than toasters on Black Friday, so let’s find out what it’s all about. The “Coin” is a connected device that holds all your cards (credit, debit, gift, loyalty, membership, etc.) that can be swiped, and functions as any one out of the lot any time you need to use it. Put simply, a single Coin replaces all your cards.
This is no ordinary Coin we are talking about
The device itself is shaped like a card, with a display for all the information the merchant needs to know. An image of each of your cards is stored in the Coin, and you can add cards, manage them and sync the data using a smartphone app.
Communication between the Coin and the app takes place through a Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE) connection. Any time you need to use a specific card at an ATM or to pay for a purchase, you select it out of all the cards you have stored, and it can then be swiped just like the real card. There’s an interesting side-story about the BLE module, but we’ll get back to that later.
No doubt the Coin sounds like a useful thing – if it works and is safe. At the moment, it looks like Coin is both functional and secure. All data storage and communications between the app, device and Coin’s servers use 128- and 256-bit encryption.
On top of that, an alarm is triggered on your phone if the device is swiped multiple times in a fraudulent manner, or if a merchant tries to change the card on the device after using one. Also, the Coin will disable itself if it gets separated from your phone and the BLE connection is lost. It can only be re-enabled after the user manually enables it.
The device comes with a non-replaceable battery which the company claims will last at least two years. It is shockproof and waterproof, and the magnetic strip is not affected by the presence of other cards or by magnets and electronic items.
A team full of experts backed by YCombinator and K9 Ventures
The company’s employees include electronics experts, software engineers and even a former NASA engineer. The way they’re tackling the implementation of the Coin tells you a lot about the trail-blazing research that’s gone into it. For instance, they were having trouble integrating BLE into the product because the existing BLE modules didn’t meet their requirements.
As a byproduct of their efforts, the Coin team was able to release an open source Arduino-BLE Developer Kit, which not surprisingly sold out quickly and is being delivered in December.
Kanishk Parashar, founder and CEO of Coin, is himself a former Paypal employee and learned quite a bit with a not-so-successful smartphone wallet app called Smart Market that was launched in 2010. Smart Market was downloaded thousands of times, but didn’t take off because it depended on customers who chose to use the app for the transaction. The fact that customers do not have to use their smartphone for Coin transactions is one of the key features that separates Coin from other mobile wallet solutions.
Kanishk told Startups.fm that in the future, all payments will be made through a device. “The Coin card is the first stepping-stone in this revolution, allowing consumers and merchants to utilize the technology of tomorrow with the same ubiquitous intuition of today,” said Kanishk. “Whatever shape or form the future of payment devices will be, Coin will adapt and lead the evolution every step of the way.”
At the moment, Coin is still available at the pre-order 50 percent discount price of $50. Afterwards, it’ll be priced for retail at $100.
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