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Another Small Step Toward Web-Enhanced Devices

This stuff sure does move quickly. A technology we’re likely to experience, apparently sooner than I even imagined, is the extension of web-enhancement to everyday objects—turning them into more sophisticated devices that relay data in a much more advanced manner than today. I imagined this as part of my series last year on the future of the web, that in the future, you’ll access the web everywhere, not just from your desk (though I probably should have said “not just from your desk, phone or tablet”) and included a few examples like web-enhanced thermostats, bank cards, and retail customer VIP cards. I expanded this idea slightly in my article last April in Smashing Magazine on holistic web browsing.

I imagined a web-enhanced bank card last year (left), and this year, the real thing is almost ready for production (right)!

Core77 recently reported that a company called Dynamics Inc. (very Fringe, if you ask me) has released some concepts for what they call “Card 2.0,” a card with a thin, embedded computer that would enable all kinds of advances in sophistication and security. The card could replace multiple cards, allowing users to choose from which account they would prefer funds to be debited at checkout. A feature the creators call “Hidden” would change the convention of having the account number printed on the face of the card; instead, the user would input a pin number on the face of the card in order to activate it for use. That alone would change credit card fraud significantly.

The biometrics I imagined aren’t there yet, but I can think of at least two reasons why the first iteration of this kind of thing would not have them, not to mention perhaps all versions. First, biometric exchange makes people nervous. It narrows the gap between us and machines, making the data exchange both more intimate (the keys being unique biological inputs like fingerprints or iris scanning) but also less in our control (we can’t easily distinguish our fingerprints or irises from others). Accessing information seems to be much more within our control when we have to memorize and input a password, even though we know that the security of that method is becoming more and more tenuous. That, in itself, is a second reason that biometrics probably make us nervous: while password security can be breached by sophisticated computer algorithms, we can imagine much more gruesome methods of breaching biometric security…

In any case, Dynamics is currently reviewing their concept with banks. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see this technology rolled out within the next five years.

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