The link between mobile devices and mobile payment is becoming quite the popular object of new start-ups and old payment giants. From mobile versions of online banks to Square and PayPal here, it seems that these two products/services are destined to be combined into one. A new Kickstarter project that has already raised an insane $170,000 might just be the true revolution we've been waiting for in that area.
The Geode is quite an interesting product. At its base it's an iPhone case. That iPhone case connects to your iPhone and the Geode app, has a small e-ink display on a the back, and a programmable bank card. There's also an add-on card reader in the bundle. The idea here is that you take your existing credit cards, debit cards and such and scan them into the geode app. Then you put in all your loyalty cards and similar types of cards that rely on barcodes to work. This is done with the camera, which is perfectly capable of scanning barcodes.
Once that's all in the app, you unplug the reader, and you're ready to go. Controlled by the app, the e-ink display on the back is then used to display barcodes for scanning. Unlike barcodes on a normal screen, the ones on the e-ink screen can be read by any reader, including laser scanners – something I can attest to normal screens not having any luck with. As for you payment cards, you select which card you want to use, and then the Geode app actually programs the blank card ("GeoCard") that's hidden in the back of the case to act as the card you picked. You can then take that card out of the case and use it to pay with.
There are many advantages of this system, especially if you have a lot of cards. The GeoCard has an auto-timeout feature, meaning it becomes inactive after a set period of time – that you control. Someone runs off with your card, or your entire phone, and all they have is a useless piece of plastic, wheras normal credit cards for some reason has absolutely all the information you need to use it written on the card itself. No need to ever replace a card either, as your cards are digital with the Geode. Thanks to both a magnetic strip and a chip on the GeoCard, as well as the e-ink handling the bar code scanning, you're also guaranteed that the system works everywhere. As compact and internal as NFC is, it'll be years until that system can claim the same thing. As for a license and/or ID, there's an add-on pocket that can store those. Authentication data and all that is stored in the app.
As for security, there's plenty of that too. A fingerprint scanner can be used to unlock the app itself, making it quick and simple. The system can't be used to clone cards, as it does a lot of background checking each time a card is added, so you can't just run around adding someone else's cards. The Geode also has a built in system that warns you if your battery is getting low, allowing you to program the GeoCard with a card that has an extended timeout in case the battery fails completely. They also promise that the case itself doesn't use much power, which I believe, as there's nothing in this setup that uses a lot of power.
Of course there will always be the crowd that would never use something like this, citing insecure fingerprint scanners being fooled by paper, software hacks allowing the reader to be used to clone cards, and so on and so forth. To be blunt, by the time someone has copied your fingerprint and made a physical print of it, or just forced you to unlock the app, they could have just robbed you the normal way. Skimming cards isn't exactly all that hard either, so those who would do that don't require a hacked consumer product to do so. The Geode aims to replace a wallet, an unlocked leather lump that holds tiny plastic cards that can be used on their own or with the information printed on them to steal your money. Compared to that, I think that a fingerprint protected cellphone system with a auto-timeout card, GPS tracking, auto-wipe (through the iPhone's default systems) is a fairly nice upgrade as far as security goes.
I wouldn't personally buy this though, not just because I don't have an iPhone, but because I have just one card. The rest of the contents of my wallet include an online banking verification calculator, an RFID-enabled bus card, a student ID card, and spare contact lenses. Not exactly something this app can store digitally. Still, I think this is a great idea, and judging by the amount pledged on Kickstarter so far, so do many others. If you have a lot of cards, both normal payment cards and loyalty cards, this is definitely an option I would look into. The price is a bit high though, albeit understandable considering the tech involved: $159 on Kickstarter, whereas the MSRP will be $199. They're offering 50% off on a future iPhone 5 version though, so upgrades should be cheaper.[Kickstarter]