Over 100,000 dollars collected on Kickstarter: this is how the startup Loop came to the spotlight in the payments sector. The two founders Will Graylin and George Wallner chose the crowdfunding portal, which recently surpassed one billion dollars in funds (even Italy made its contribution), to present to the world their payment transaction system via iOS apparatuses.
It is an apparatus (called Fob) as big as a matchbox, made up of a magnetic band reader and a 3.5 mm jack, capable of cryptographing and memorizing debit/credit cards, loyalty cards, and gift cards, and transmit them successfully to 90% of POS used in stores.
Once connected to the FOB and having downloaded the specific app, LoopWallet, onto one’s device, all cards that are inserted can then be managed. To access the application, it is necessary to insert a 4 digit PIN that serves to safeguard user data.
The idea of substituting plastic credit cards with a secure digital wallet is definitely not a new idea and not just Loop has come up with it. The most “famous” attempt is probably that of Google Wallet, which, utilizing NFC technology, allows all cards to be loaded on devices. However, it never took off, both because NFC was never supported by Apple and because the technology requires big investments in infrastructure and installed bases.
So this is the added value of Loop: the system does not require any modifications, not on the user’s device (smartphone) nor for the retailer’s POS. As of today, it is possibly the most immediate and secure way to digitalize one’s cards and pay in any shop. In the United States, it is already possible to use it, and not just in large chains like Macy’s, Apple stores, or Starbucks but also in small Laundromats, pharmacies, hairdressers, etc.
In a test recently conducted by an early adopter, Loop worked 14 out of 17 times on the first try. This is the best result until now among digital wallets that permit payments via smartphone. As well, it worked with all types of cards, allowing for the possibility to computerize more than one in the same Loop. The disadvantage is that it is still an external software, which, as of today, is sold in the U.S. for a not so competitive price of 39 dollars.
Market reaction seems to be positive and its founders are already thinking of a Premium version (an iPhone case sold at a price of 99 dollars) capable of memorizing payment card data including an extra battery, thus resolving one of the problems of iPhones. This should be ready by June. As for the competition, important strategies are already underway.
Coin, for example, works by offering a very similar type of service. The only, but substantial, difference is that, as noted by experts, Coin seems to want to eliminate the mobile factor of mobile payments. The hardware, in fact, is made up of a card with a small screen that seems to be a credit card itself. The difference is that this card can memorize more than one payment card, selecting the preferred one at the time of acquisition, as well as loyalty cards, coupons, etc. It is, in fact, a mini computer equipped with a button that the user can push in order to pick which card to use for payment (also available with the app that Coin has developed for iOS and Android). Another plus for Coin is that its integration with BLE(Bluetooth Low Energy) technology allows it to supply, once the ecosystem is developed, a vast array of added value services.