Hi Amal, when did you first come into contact with Fidesmo?
It’s some years ago now. Vivokey is a provider of identity and authorization solutions for wearables and digital implants, and we’ve collaborated on several projects. Fidesmo has integrated some of our technology and we’re now utilizing their platform to offer secure contactless payments on our soon-to-be-launched payment wearables in the US. For wearable companies, it’s great to have a platform provider that brings different service partners together.
How did Vivokey get started?
Back in 2005, I decided I didn’t want to carry keys around everywhere, so I developed an access control system that enabled me to do away with them. I bought off-the-shelf parts to make a digital lock and developed authorization software that could be put onto a secure element (NFC chip). I chose to use a chip and antennae that could be implanted, so I wouldn’t have to carry something else around instead of the keys. I’ve had it in my left hand ever since. That was the beginning of the company, and today we have a few hundred thousand people walking around with Vivokey implants.
How secure are the Vivokey implants?
Well, that depends on what type of secure you’re talking about. The chips themselves won’t harm your body, which is why I’ve had mine for years. They can be inserted by a licensed body piercer, so you don’t need a medical license to do it.
Then there is IT security. And again, they are highly secure – hence the name of the chips used – secure elements. The same security-certified chips are used in passports, government IDs and the like. High-security standards-based cryptography software can be hardcoded into the hardware, but they still support the upload of new services from an app.
Vivokey has also developed a validation signature system that ensures data in the secure element can only be scanned once within a specific time period, at the point of contact, which stops someone from copying or reusing your data.
OK, so let’s talk contactless payments.
It’s always been my goal to replace the wallet as well as keys with a secure element. Contactless enables us to do this, but obviously not if you’re using a card for payments – then you’re just swapping cash for plastic. Similarly, if you’re using a mobile, you must make sure it’s charged – no battery no payment – which is a major inconvenience. It’s when you bring payments into a wearable that the magic happens. Unfortunately, however, for various non-technical reasons, payments cannot be made with an implant yet. Anyhow, we are planning to launch secure contactless payments on external wearables via the Fidesmo platform, which has banks and payment providers on it, including Mastercard and Visa. Initially, we will be releasing rings and watch straps.
Why rings and watchstraps?
People wear them daily, putting them on by default or never taking them off – the next best thing to an implant. Additionally, I believe there is enormous opportunity in this market for contactless jewelry and other designer products. Our watch straps, for example, are designed in Italy, together with the Tesla car club of Milan. We want to explore this further and help designers and fashion houses to start offering wearables. Designers who make beautiful things that people want to wear. We want to be an Integrator for brands so they can get onto the Fidesmo platform quickly and effortlessly and start using all the great services, whether it’s payments, travel cards, car keys, you name it. If we can do that, we’ll really start seeing some cool stuff on the market.
Any final thoughts?
As someone who has developed and knows the convenience of implants, I think one day we’ll get to the stage where our digital identities are stored in an implanted secure element where they can’t be tampered with. This way, we will always have proof of our identities with us. But that’s some way in the future, as it would require a mindset change for many people along with FDA certification, a long and arduous process. Today, however, I think it makes a lot of sense to use implants for access and have a wearable for payments. That way, you get secure convenience and can forget about your keys and wallet.