Thanks to E Ink, virtually anything can be used as a canvas for creative expression these days. We've seen it used in shoes, watches and fashion accessories, and it was only a matter of time before someone came up with the idea to integrate it in wallets. That day has finally arrived with the launch of the Wonder Wallet on Kickstarter.
In the looks department, this die-cast aluminum and polycarbonate (score one for vegan techies) wallet is sleek and polished, and comes with a customizable e-paper display that lets users switch things up with up to 10 images. They'll need to be disciplined with what they choose to keep in it though – there is enough space for up to six cards and an extra money clip if you really need to carry cash. The team's founders say that since the goal was to keep the wallet as thin as possible, they decided to forego a coin compartment.
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However the real wonder of the wallet, according to the designers of this South Korean startup, lies in its smart functions. Designed to help users minimize the clutter caused by having too many loyalty cards in their wallets, it lets them store their cards' barcodes or QR codes digitally. When they enter a place like a café, they can program the wallet to remember the location so that it will automatically display the appropriate membership data on their next visit – though users will have to be connected to their phone over Bluetooth to do so. As the device gains more users, the long-term plan is that people will be able to make use of crowd-shared location data.
Another potentially useful function lies in its lost and found alerts. When the wallet's Bluetooth connection is activated, users will receive a push notification on their phone if it goes out of range. The wallet will also display a help message and broadcast Bluetooth Low Energy signals to alert other app users in the vicinity of its location. Of course, this assumes that there are other Wonder Wallet users in the area. That said, given the increasing number of devices with integrated GPS trackers, it remains to be seen whether not having a GPS module puts this wallet at a disadvantage.
On another note, the team says it will be using APIs from popular apps to increase the functionality of the wallet, and that the device is designed to work worldwide.
Overall, while the wallet in the marketing video looks slick and attractive, it does raise a few questions. Firstly, what exactly does it do that a smartphone can't? Secondly, with the emergence of smart wallets such as the Wocket, which does away with the need to carry cash (or any other card for that matter), does the Wonder Wallet have what it takes to gain traction outside of South Korea? Thirdly, while customization is a growing trend these days, is it enough to get people to swap their designer leather purses for a smart wallet?
Wonder Wallet is aiming to raise US$50,000 on Kickstarter by the end of the year to fund production. A Super Early Bird pledge starts at $55, which includes a wallet, battery charger and money clip. If the company meets its goal, and everything else goes to plan, the wallets are expected to ship May next year.
Check out the video to see the Wonder Wallet in action. What features would you like to see in a smart wallet?