Anyone who has ever watched or read fiction set in the future has likely come across the concept of credits. Electronic currency accepted everywhere in the galaxy. In these stories, your credits are often tied to either some personal computing device or can be summoned up using a hand print or retinal scanner or some such biometric device. In the future, only scoundrels , rogues, and villains use physical currency because it is harder to track. Well here, we go down the rabbit hole again because fiction may be becoming reality sooner than we think.
Bitcoin has made recent waves in the news. Bitcoin is an experimental, open source, universal payment system. It is also a kind of digital economy like a global electronic version of the euro. Bitcoin represents a desire to shift currency from national economies to an open global economy. The value of the Bitcoin rises and falls like any other currency in the world though it is not tied to any one country’s economy but to the economy of its users. It is very volatile and a lot of countries refused to exchange Bitcoins for varying reasons. Bitcoins are cool, high-tech, Sci-Fi things, but they are flawed and the openness of the system leaves too much of the security up to the user.
While Bitcoins may be too far out there for most folks, the idea of the digital wallet seems to be catching fire. A few years ago the hot cool tech everyone wanted was a phone with NFC (Near Field Communications) capabilities. NFC would allow you to store your credit card info on your phone then when you were ready to pay all you did was wave your phone over the scanner and the transaction was done. It didn’t really seem to catch on though with vendors. This is probably due to the fact that they would have to buy new machines to process the transactions. Recently, a new technology has caught my eye. Taking the idea of a digital wallet on your phone and bridging the gap between the digital wallet and the existing card swipe systems. Coin as it is simply called allows you to load your credit cards, bank cards, even your gift cards onto your phone then transfer them all to a single digital card that is compatible with credit card machines out today in the marketplace. A single button allows you to scroll through your cards to select the one you want to use to pay. Simply hand the card to the clerk to swipe, and you are good to go. It even has a nifty security feature. It can pair with your phone via Bluetooth, if you separate the two the card locks and the app on your phone alerts you that you may have left your coin behind. These neat little guys are due to start shipping in the summer of 2014.
While Bitcoin is a great experiment, it is a little like jumping into the deep end of the pool to see if you can swim. Coin however may be the first real stab at consolidating all our methods of payment and may also harken the digital death of physical currency.