Protean Payment’s Echo Card: The Only Card You’ll Ever Need?

If you’re like me, your wallet is bulging with cards. Debit card, library card, loyalty cards, gift cards, etc. They’re stacked up in the little sleeves and can sometimes be a real pain in the arse to wiggle free.

But an Ann Arbor-based startup called Protean Payment has a solution: Its Echo card and accompanying mobile wallet platform that allows users to transfer all of their cards onto one, which is expected to launch publicly early next year.

Protean Payment began when its three co-founders (Miron Klimkowski, Thiago Olson, and Chris Bartenstein, pictured above) met while attending Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. Olson, Protean’s CEO and a native of Rochester, MI, studied electrical engineering and physics and had spent some time working in national labs and in the defense sector. His expertise is in plasma physics, and it was through his exploration of this technology that he realized had an idea for a startup.

They decided Ann Arbor was a good place to locate, especially in terms of the talent they were looking to hire, and reached out to TechTown for support.

The Echo card platform works like this: Users swipe any card with a magnetic stripe on the back through a card reader that plugs into their smartphones. The information from the cards is then stored on a free mobile app, and cards can be added or deleted at any time. Users then send three cards at a time to the Echo card via Bluetooth. At the point of sale, users tap one of three touch sensors on the card, and Echo will then mimic the corresponding card.

“It’s the next generation of credit card technology,” Olson explains. “We’re making the Echo cards out of flexible, strengthened glass with an anti-fingerprint coating in white or black. We’ve packed the computer architecture into the card using a lithium-ion battery processor.”

Olson says what really makes the Echo card special is integrated Bluetooth, which makes getting the card information in the app to the Echo card a breeze. “You can take a picture of your card and it will upload onto the app on the phone,” he says. “A few seconds later, it’s on the Echo.”

But is it safe? Olson says yes. Users can only register cards in a name that matches … Next Page »

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