Mag-Stripe Cards Get Smart

A tiny startup wows DemoFall by making the ubiquitous magnetic stripe card a whole lot smarter.

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Magnetic stripe cards are by no means perfect—they’re basically as dumb as digital technology gets. But they are supported by a vast infrastructure of magnetic stripe readers, and any discussion about making the cards better typically grinds to a halt when this infrastructure is considered.

Enter Dynamics Inc., a little company from Pittsburgh. Attending the DemoFall 2010 conference in Santa Clara, Calif., its CEO Jeff Mullen admitted it was his first visit ever to Silicon Valley.

Mullen may be a stranger to the valley, but he’s no stranger to creative ideas implemented in Silicon. Instead of trying to replace the magnetic stripe on the card, Dynamics added a layer of electronics under it. Those electronics can reprogram that stripe on the fly. That means cards could have switchable numbers—use one for debit, one for credit, perhaps. They could also require that users tap in a security code before they’ll work, meaning a stolen card is essentially a dead card. Mullen’s plan for what he calls Card 2.0 is to sell the technology to the credit card issuers—and, he says, they are definitely interested. He tells me all about it in the video, above.

(And if you think he’s exuberant here, you should have seen him after the DemoFall attendees voted Dynamics winner of the People’s Choice award.)

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