Hands-on review: Ekster voice-activated smart wallet

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Hands-on review: Ekster voice-activated smart wallet

I’ll be honest. When the email announcing the arrival of a voice-activated smart wallet pitched up in the E&T inbox, my assumption was that this would be an unnecessarily complicated bit of technology for technology’s sake. A case for your contactless payment cards that only allows them to be activated if you’ve got sufficient funds, maybe. Or that gives you the reassurance of having to speak a passphrase as well as tapping it on a card reader for an additional layer of security.

In fact, the Ekster range of wallets are much more practical than that. A genuine solution to the risks of how we pay for things these days that also looks good. And after raising over $1,000,000 in previous crowd-funding campaign, the company which claims to be the world’s largest smart wallet brand has launched a third-generation range of its products.

What you get with the smart wallet is a compact, classy looking holder for your cards and a small amount of cash that comes with some neat security-related features. The principal one is the protection it provides against the danger of someone equipped with a dodgy RFID reader skimming your card details without your knowledge. Nothing new about that when contactless payments are such a part of the mainstream these days that you can pick up an aluminium case in your local corner shop for a couple of pounds. Ekster takes it to another level.

Both versions of wallet – the Parliament and the Senate – incorporate an ingenious mechanism that holds cards securely but pops them out at the press of a button. Hold the cardholder upright and you can drop in a stack of 4, 5 or 6 cards (depending on whether they’re embossed or not). Push them firmly in and they’re held firmly in place until you hit the eject button, when they emerge stacked ready to select the one you want like a card sharp’s deck. The friction mechanism is smooth and there was no danger of them flying out across the floor.

We tested the Parliament bi-fold wallet, using some old supermarket loyalty cards for a dry run. As you’d expect, getting them in and out took a little practice, particularly plucking one card from a stack of several by carefully holding each side. With nothing covering the slot they come out of it’s a leap of faith relying on the mechanism to hold them in but it resisted being held upside down and firmly shaken. And the eject button is one of those pleasing physical interfaces that you’d probably find yourself playing with even when you didn’t need to take a card out.

It’s compact though. And with a surface area barely larger than a standard credit card and about 1cm thick would slip easily into a pocket. Two pockets can hold a few banknotes, other cards or a couple of business cards. Ekster suggests you could fit some coins in there as well, although that would spoil the look of something that’s been designed with slimline elegance in mind.

So your cards are protected from skimmers. What’s smart about that?

Picture the scene. You’re enjoying the leisurely stroll back to your hotel or Airbnb apartment after an evening meal when you realise that although you can feel the reassuring heft of the mobile phone in your back pocket, your cardholder isn’t where it should be. You remember popping out a card to pay for dinner and slotting it back into the holder, but didn’t you then get distracted talking about what tip to leave and lay it down on the table?

Tracking the Ekster voice-activated smart wallet

Image credit: Ekster

Ekster won’t avoid the panicked rush back to the bar or restaurant, but it’ll give you a level of reassurance. The solar-powered tracking card that fits neatly inside the wallet uses the same technology implemented by global shipping companies to track containers. As long as you’ve remembered to download the Chipolo app to your phone, create an account (login with Google or Facebook is possible but you might prefer to just use an email address and separate password) and pair with the tracker, you can locate it – and your wallet – anywhere in the world. If you think it’s nearby, tap ‘ring’ and it’ll pipe up. If not you can use ‘mark as lost’ to activate a crowd network locator to help with your search.

Three hours in daylight will give you enough power for two months with of tracking functionality, although Ekster recommends leaving the card outside the wallet for a couple of hours every month to ensure battery longevity. It’s designed to fit neatly in the Ekster wallet, but obviously you could use it to locate anything you’re worried about mislaying.

And what makes it a voice-activated wallet? Compatibility with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. You can now locate the card and whatever valuable you’ve attached it to on your phone using either of the two apps. Your assistant can make your wallet ring, or it can tell you where it was last seen by the Chipolo app.

With prices starting at $69 for a cardholder or $79-89 for a wallet, and the tracking card an additional $49, this isn’t a cheap solution to preventing someone grabbing your card details, but it looks great, is built to last, and you probably only need to use the location function once to justify paying for it.

For full details and to order see ekster.com.

I’ll be honest. When the email announcing the arrival of a voice-activated smart wallet pitched up in the E&T inbox, my assumption was that this would be an unnecessarily complicated bit of technology for technology’s sake. A case for your contactless payment cards that only allows them to be activated if you’ve got sufficient funds, maybe. Or that gives you the reassurance of having to speak a passphrase as well as tapping it on a card reader for an additional layer of security.

In fact, the Ekster range of wallets are much more practical than that. A genuine solution to the risks of how we pay for things these days that also looks good. And after raising over $1,000,000 in previous crowd-funding campaign, the company which claims to be the world’s largest smart wallet brand has launched a third-generation range of its products.

What you get with the smart wallet is a compact, classy looking holder for your cards and a small amount of cash that comes with some neat security-related features. The principal one is the protection it provides against the danger of someone equipped with a dodgy RFID reader skimming your card details without your knowledge. Nothing new about that when contactless payments are such a part of the mainstream these days that you can pick up an aluminium case in your local corner shop for a couple of pounds. Ekster takes it to another level.

Both versions of wallet – the Parliament and the Senate – incorporate an ingenious mechanism that holds cards securely but pops them out at the press of a button. Hold the cardholder upright and you can drop in a stack of 4, 5 or 6 cards (depending on whether they’re embossed or not). Push them firmly in and they’re held firmly in place until you hit the eject button, when they emerge stacked ready to select the one you want like a card sharp’s deck. The friction mechanism is smooth and there was no danger of them flying out across the floor.

We tested the Parliament bi-fold wallet, using some old supermarket loyalty cards for a dry run. As you’d expect, getting them in and out took a little practice, particularly plucking one card from a stack of several by carefully holding each side. With nothing covering the slot they come out of it’s a leap of faith relying on the mechanism to hold them in but it resisted being held upside down and firmly shaken. And the eject button is one of those pleasing physical interfaces that you’d probably find yourself playing with even when you didn’t need to take a card out.

It’s compact though. And with a surface area barely larger than a standard credit card and about 1cm thick would slip easily into a pocket. Two pockets can hold a few banknotes, other cards or a couple of business cards. Ekster suggests you could fit some coins in there as well, although that would spoil the look of something that’s been designed with slimline elegance in mind.

So your cards are protected from skimmers. What’s smart about that?

Picture the scene. You’re enjoying the leisurely stroll back to your hotel or Airbnb apartment after an evening meal when you realise that although you can feel the reassuring heft of the mobile phone in your back pocket, your cardholder isn’t where it should be. You remember popping out a card to pay for dinner and slotting it back into the holder, but didn’t you then get distracted talking about what tip to leave and lay it down on the table?

Tracking the Ekster voice-activated smart wallet

Image credit: Ekster

Ekster won’t avoid the panicked rush back to the bar or restaurant, but it’ll give you a level of reassurance. The solar-powered tracking card that fits neatly inside the wallet uses the same technology implemented by global shipping companies to track containers. As long as you’ve remembered to download the Chipolo app to your phone, create an account (login with Google or Facebook is possible but you might prefer to just use an email address and separate password) and pair with the tracker, you can locate it – and your wallet – anywhere in the world. If you think it’s nearby, tap ‘ring’ and it’ll pipe up. If not you can use ‘mark as lost’ to activate a crowd network locator to help with your search.

Three hours in daylight will give you enough power for two months with of tracking functionality, although Ekster recommends leaving the card outside the wallet for a couple of hours every month to ensure battery longevity. It’s designed to fit neatly in the Ekster wallet, but obviously you could use it to locate anything you’re worried about mislaying.

And what makes it a voice-activated wallet? Compatibility with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. You can now locate the card and whatever valuable you’ve attached it to on your phone using either of the two apps. Your assistant can make your wallet ring, or it can tell you where it was last seen by the Chipolo app.

With prices starting at $69 for a cardholder or $79-89 for a wallet, and the tracking card an additional $49, this isn’t a cheap solution to preventing someone grabbing your card details, but it looks great, is built to last, and you probably only need to use the location function once to justify paying for it.

For full details and to order see ekster.com.

Dominic Lentonhttps://eandt.theiet.org/rss

E&T News

https://eandt.theiet.org/content/articles/2019/08/hands-on-review-ekster-voice-activated-smart-wallet/

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