We’re still at the beginning of the blockchain and crypto journey, and making it easier to store and use cryptocurrencies through common platforms and devices will be essential to mainstream adoption.
With that in mind, biometrically secured hardware wallet solution provider Unikeys has announced, the UKey card, which introduces fingerprint technology to secure users’ cryptocurrencies in a familiar form factor: a credit card-style device.
Hardware wallets aren’t new, but they usually take the form of a USB key that must connect to a computer or tablet device for storage and retrieval of digital assets. And software wallets, while popular, are vulnerable to hacks.
So what makes the UKey card different?
A smart hardware wallet, it offers three-factor authentication by introducing patented biometric security to a design that looks like a regular credit card. In partnership with French smartcard designer MeReal Biometrics, Unikeys has included a fingerprint sensor that lets users store biometric data without ever exposing that information to the internet or storing it with a third party.
“The UKey card is a cold wallet,” Unikeys CEO and cofounder Alexandre Tabbakh told me. “Cold storage wallets refer to any type of wallet that is independent of any internet connections (paper wallets, brain wallets, or hardware wallets), like physical devices that safely store and isolate private keys.”
The card only works after successfully authenticating a registered fingerprint, and it has various failsafes and backup procedures built in for emergency access. The UKey card is compatible with all Apple and Android phones and tablets via NFC and Bluetooth functions, and it supports Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin, ERC20 Tokens, and the Unikeys Token.
The design works independently from the smartphone, which adds an extra layer of protection for budding cryptocurrency holders.
“With the UKey card, the private keys are isolated inside the card and can only be utilized to sign transactions through an accurate fingerprint authentication,” Tabbakh said. “Even if the user’s phone gets hacked, the hacker won’t be able to retrieve the private keys.”
With a commonly accepted design and three-factor security, Unikeys hopes to make cryptocurrencies more acceptable to the masses.
“We intend to accelerate and facilitate the process for users to adopt cryptocurrencies by enabling them to use cards that are easy to use, secure, and versatile for more flexibility,” Tabbakh said. “The biometric feature also provides a sentiment of security that is needed on the card market, which is at the moment proposing very little security [for] NFC connections.”
But the UKey card doesn’t stand alone.
In an effort to provide its users with fast and frictionless payments at the point of sale, Unikeys has developed a merchant ecosystem, enabling retailers to accept payments from the UKey card in cryptocurrencies. The card allows these partners to exchange cryptocurrencies into the desired fiat currencies, including USD, EUR, JPY, and HKD. In addition, Unikeys proposes a unique framework based on off-chain payment channels, allowing for secure, split-second transaction speeds with the UKey card.
Unikeys is currently fundraising through a private token sale and will soon release more information about a public token sale. The UNK utility token can be used to pay for Unikeys products and solutions at a discount, and to receive cash back for use within the Unikeys ecosystem, which allows users to pay transaction fees. It also lets merchants create loyalty programs.
So what are the costs involved in getting a UKey card, and how does the company make money?
“Unikeys proposes a business model that doesn’t only rely on the number of cards sold but also on the number of transactions performed in the Unikeys merchant ecosystem,” Tabbakh said. “Unikeys also proposes [that] enterprises and governments … integrate biometric card hardware wallet solutions in their current and upcoming token/cryptocurrency economies.”
And what’s next for the company?
“Unikeys intends to increase its production capacities, as well as the size of its team, in order to deliver the UKey cards, the individual and the merchant app on time,” Tabbakh said. “Unikeys also works with enterprises in delivering tailor-made hardware wallet solutions. Indeed, the need for UX-powered wallets is very important in blockchain for enterprise implementations that currently … lack any user-friendly value proposition.”