The mobile payments space is finally starting to heat up in the United States now that Apple’s contactless payment solution is almost ready for primetime, but it will still be years before Apple Pay even comes close to being able to replace your wallet. While the sleek solution allows iPhone users to pay for goods online and in a handful of stores, the majority of retail establishments we visit will not support Apple Pay at launch. And what about scannable rewards cards or getting cash at an ATM? Even years from now, there will still be limitations that Apple Pay doesn’t overcome, and there will still be plenty of establishments that don’t accept Apple Pay or other similar services.
There is a gap between now and several years down the road when mobile payment solutions are truly ubiquitous, and Palo Alto-based startup Plastc might be the company to fill that gap.
Formed by PixelMags founders Ryan Marquis and Mark Stubbs, Plastc is building a solution that may be ideally suited to bridging the divide between current and future payment technologies. Plastc’s offering involves a digital wallet app and a small plastic card that is exactly the size of a credit card.
Together, they may be able to replace almost everything in your wallet.
The Plastc Card is a digital credit card sized device with a magnetic strip and a touchscreen E Ink display. The card works with every payment system that supports standard credit cards, and it can store all of your current credit and debit cards on one device. Beyond payments, the Plastc Card’s E Ink display is also dynamic and large enough to display barcodes and QR codes, so it can also store all of your scannable loyalty cards.
Wireless charging support helps ensure that it’s easy to refill the device’s 30-day battery, it ships with chip and PIN support, and it connects to your smartphone using Bluetooth Low Energy technology. Plastc says iPhones and Android smartphones will be supported at launch.
Here are the device’s key features, as detailed by Plastc:
- E-Ink ink Touchscreen. Plastc Card comes with a proprietary wafer thin digital display using E-Ink technology that shows your name, credit card, barcodes and much more. With a single swipe and tap you can change the type of the card from a credit card to a rewards card but to retailers, it behaves just like your regular card. If you choose you can also view your balances or available credit.
- Rewritable Magnetic Strip. The rewritable magnetic strip enables the behavior of the card to change depending on which card you select. It is also disabled until you select your card, preventing any fraudulent activity.
- Rewriteable NFC/RFID. Also included is Plastc Card’s ’s re-writable NFC/RFID technology that lets Plastc Card mimic any RFID access cards. Only emitting a signal while a card is chosen,you never have to worry about someone electronically pick pocketing your data.
- Chip and PIN Technology. Plastc Card will ship with Chip and PIN hardware which means that it will work globally after a Plastc firmware update in late 2015.
- Barcode. The E-Ink touchscreen also supports barcodes for gift and loyalty cards, so you never have to worry about carrying around multiple cards to use at the perfect moment.
- Built-in Bluetooth. Low energy (BLE) is included within Plastc Card for connecting with the accompanying Wallet app. Bluetooth provides seamless communication with the physical Card.
- Remote Wipe. If your Card is left behind or away from your phone for a predetermined amount of time, Plastc Card will wipe your data to prevent fraudulent activity. As soon as it comes within range of your phone it will re-sync all your information seamlessly so you don’t have to start from scratch.
- Return Me Mode. ‘Return Me’ mode helps your card find its way back to you by displaying a message on the e-ink screen when it’s lost.
- Flash Memory. On Plastc Card, you can store up to 20 cards at once – these can be credit & debit cards, gift & loyalty cards, access cards and coupons. With the Plastc Wallet app, you can store an unlimited amount, making it possible to change your cards on Plastc Card while you’re on the go easily using Bluetooth.
- Signature & Photo ID. To give you further peace of mind, Plastc Card will display your photo ID and signature on the E-Ink touch screen so you are giving additional forms of identification to the retailer.
- 30-Day Battery Life + Wireless Charging. With Plastc Card, charging is a breeze as it ships with a wireless charging mat. With a single charge, you will experience about 30 days of battery life.
- Light Sensor. A built in light sensor detects when Plastc Card is in or out of your wallet. Allowing Plastc Card to save battery life and only display information while in use.
Plastc is not the only company currently developing a digital card solution that looks to lighten the load on your wallet. Coin unveiled a similar solution last fall and stirred up tremendous interest, and the company subsequently raised $15.5 million in Series A funding after a successful crowdfunding campaign.
Coin was most recently in the news when it delayed its launch, however, leading many early backers to cancel their preorders.
Like Coin, Plastc will look to crowdfund its solution ahead of launch. In fact, the company will begin taking preorders on its website on Tuesday for its $155 card, which is slated to begin shipping next summer with a bundled wireless charging pad. The device will also ship with a card reader that allows users to swipe credit cards with their smartphones so the data can then be transferred to the Plastc Card.
When asked what makes Plastc’s solution more appealing than Coin, co-founders Ryan Marquis and Mark Stubbs had plenty to say.
For one thing, Marquis noted that the Plastc Card is rechargeable whereas the Coin will die and need to be replaced after a certain amount of time. He also said that the Plastc Card’s large E Ink touchscreen gives it a great deal of functionality Coin users cannot enjoy.
Chip and PIN support on the card and facial recognition security features in the companion app were also listed among Plastc’s main benefits, as was the companion app itself, which will also be a one-stop-shop that allows users to check account balances and perform other tasks without the need to open their banks’ apps. Marquis said that Plastc will launch with seven partner banks including American Express, Bank of America, Chase, Charles Schwab, Citi, US Bank and Wells Fargo.
Of note, there are still some barriers to entry for Plastc. The company is about to launch a crowdfunding campaign while many people still have a bad taste in their mouths from delays with Coin’s similar solution. Plastc also doesn’t yet have a fully functioning prototype, which could deter some potential backers.
The technology is all there, however, and Stubbs and Marquis have a solid track record to their credit. There’s a lot of time between now and summer 2015, but Plastc may find itself among the leaders in this emerging space if it can deliver on its promises.