Would You Ditch Your Wallet?

May 15, 2014

Think of what happens when you lose your wallet.

Driver’s license. Credit cards. Hotel rewards cards. All gone.

What a pain, right?

At least one company is working to make this hassle a thing of the past, offering a high-tech way to manage your identity using nothing but your smartphone.

Microstrategy is touting a product called Usher, and showed off some of its capabilities during the 1776 Challenge Festival in Washington, D.C.

The company is making big promises when it comes to Usher, claiming it will offer greater convenience a virtual elimination of identity theft. 

“The password is dead,” said Mika Devonshire, product manager for Usher. “We really need a comprehensive solution that’s convenient.” 

In a demonstration, Devonshire showed how the Usher smartphone app might work in an office environment. An employee might use the app to enter the company parking garage, then again when entering the building. It might also help you log in to your computer. 

But what if someone steals your phone?  Well, the key thing, Usher product managers said, was to remember is that no personal information is actually stored on your phone. Usher product officials said that for a thief to access the actual data, they’d have to crack an encryption system that changes every 30 seconds. 

There’s also biometric capabilities. Perhaps in order to deter thieves, you use Usher to pay for items at a store, and require a fingerprint for any purchase over $100.

“It’s totally customizable,” Devonshire said.

Usher and other products like it could, in theory, be used to replace driver’s licenses and passports. They could be used to log in to email and bank accounts.

For Usher to work, of course, customers will need to trust the technology. But it can also be argued that this is a major step forward from the current dizzying array of multiple logins, passwords and physical cards.

Maybe the popular ad slogan “What’s in your wallet?” will soon be replaced. At the very least, it might be answered with “Nothing. I don’t carry one anymore.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a supporting partner of the 1776 Challenge Cup and Challenge Festival. For a list of events this week go to challengecup.1776dc.com.