LAS VEGAS — Apple Pay is cool, but what if you don’t have the latest iPhone 6? The Plastc Card might be for you.
It’s the same size and shape as a regular card, but has a sharp and striking e-ink display. You simply swipe through the e-ink screen to choose the card you want, and swipe the mag stripe through the reader.
Instead of carrying 20 cards in your wallet, you carry just one.
Plastc is the brainchild of budding entrepreneurs Mark Stubbs and Ryan Marquis. Stubbs is a former car designer, and Marquis an expert in 3-D software. They met when Stubbs used Marquis’ software to design vehicles for Simon Cox, a British car designer.
Six years ago they started Pixelmags, a digital distribution company that delivers digital versions of magazines and catalogs to iOS devices. Their next endeavor, Plastc, came about while traveling for business. They were both frustrated by the number of cards they carried and thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool if … ?”
Plastc joins Coin and LoopPay in the electronic card market. While they all store payment information from multiple cards, Plastc is the first with a digital display. The black-and-white touchscreen allows users to swipe through all their different cards and choose which one to present to store staffers or waiters. It also displays a black-and-white headshot and signature for authentication.
The entrepreneurs worked on prototypes for two years. Engineering the screen was the hardest part. They had to wait for chips to become available and for the e-ink technology to become compact and thin enough to fit into a credit card format. The touchscreen was key. They felt very strongly that the Plastc card must look and work just like a regular credit card. Making something familiar is essential to getting people to use it.
They hired a public-relations expert, launched their own self-hosted crowdfunding campaign and within seven days had raised $5.2 million dollars. A friend of a friend introduced them to Brookstone, the mall electronics chain, which partnered with them through a new entrepreneurship program.
Plastc’s closest competitor right now is Coin, but Stubbs and Marquis told me there are three important differences.
Wireless charging: Each Plastc card comes with a wireless charging mat. The battery lasts 30 days on one charge. By contrast, the Coin card has to be replaced entirely when the battery runs out. According to Coin’s site, a replaceable battery or recharging circuitry would significantly increase the size of the card.
Full touchscreen e-ink display: In addition to storing up to 20 cards, Plastc’s e-ink screen can display QR codes and barcodes for e-tickets and gift cards. It can also display balance information and recent transactions for a handful of partner banks and card issuers, including Bank of America, Chase and Wells Fargo. The card is protected by a four-digit PIN. After five wrong attempts, the Plastc card will lock for 10 minutes before another attempt can be made.
Wallet app: The connected Wallet app is able to store, manage and sync cards to the Plastc card. Account balances and transaction alerts, available from the top seven U.S. banks, help users track spending.
Pairing with an iPhone allows the card to issue a proximity alert if it loses contact with the phone, like if it’s left at a store. If the card is more than 100 feet away, a notification is sent to the phone letting the user know that their card has been left behind. The card wipes out all financial information and a message is displayed on Plastc that says it’s lost.
The user can also set times when Plastc is not near their phone and the card will wipe itself of all information. When the Plastc card is connected with the phone again, the information will be reinstated in real time.
Brookstone, which is showcasing Plastc at its booth here at CES, plans to stock the device at more than 200 stores in the United States by summer. Plastc is taking pre-orders for $155.