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The future is now: introducing the digital wallet

Emily Crone

In “Mission Impossible,” “Minority Report,” James Bond movies and even “The Terminator,” eyes, fingers and voices are scanned to identify people and give access to secure places and objects. This futuristic type of identification technology, called biometrics, has been featured in movies for decades. Now it is a reality, and it may be the way of the future when it comes to credit cards.

icache.jpgThe iCache is a portable and secure transaction device that consolidates the information of all the cards in your wallet into one device. Larger than an iPod but smaller than a Motorola Razr, this gadget is convenient and chic. Your credit cards, debit cards, loyalty cards and gift cards can all be reduced into one universal card. Once you upload your data into the iCache, it can be accessed only through your fingerprint.

When you are ready to use it, you activate the iCache with your fingerprint. Scroll through the list of cards, select the one you want to use for the purchase and the universal card that resides within the device is encoded to act as the card you selected. The universal card is ejected and ready for use as whatever debit, credit, loyalty or gift card you selected. Once you put it back in and select a new card, the generic card then emulates the next card. Or, if you are shopping at a place with contactless technology, simply select the card you want to use, tap the device to the contactless reader and you’re done. If it is a gift card with a bar code, a bar code on the iCache can be scanned.

The iCache combines a magnetic stripe, bar code and contactless technology all in one. It does not require merchants to upgrade or modify existing equipment. While the user must register the device using a web-based program, the biometrics and credit card data are stored only within the iCache device itself — not in the company’s database or on the user’s computer. If the iCache is lost, nobody else will be able to use it (not even identical twins have the same fingerprint), and any attempt to open or tamper with the device will render it useless. Forget having to cancel cards because your wallet is stolen — the iCache only stores the information of your cards, not your physical cards. The contents of your regular wallet can be kept someplace safe at home.

While you may be dying for one of these devices now (I am!), they aren’t available just yet. A limited number will be distributed in the second quarter of 2008, and they will be more widely available midyear. At first they will be distributed through your bank or credit card company, but eventually you will be able to buy them from major retailers. The company hopes to eventually see the product used with hotel keys, park passes, resort travel, airline boarding and more. How much will you have to fork out for one of these babies? Unfortunately, iCache has its lips sealed about the price.

I only have a few credit cards, but I am a mess when it comes to keeping up with loyalty cards and gift cards. My wallet is gargantuan. Hey, iCache, need a beta tester?

To learn about other fun and interesting credit card gadgets, check out my blog from earlier this week.

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