Ethereum-based messaging app and browser startup Status recently announced the relaunch of the ‘Keycard’, the company’s open-source hardware wallet. The Keycard is the same size and shape as a standard credit card and signs transactions with a contactless ‘tap-to-pay’ feature.
“[Keycard] is contactless,” Status project lead Guy-Louis Grau said to CoinDesk. “It’s going to work with your mobile crypto wallet. You’ll just need to tap your Keycard on a mobile device to sign transactions. Functionally speaking, it’s really a hardware wallet but it works with mobile.”
Announcing @Keycard_ the secure, contactless hardwallet & open source API. Keycard & the Keycard API are entirely open source and enable any developer to integrate wallets, hardware, & build their own smartcards. Learn more and apply to receive a free card https://t.co/u0EwfpwMFU
— Status (@ethstatus) February 13, 2019
The wallet is currently capable of holding Bitcoin, Litecoin, Bitcoin Cash, XRP, Ether, and all Ethereum-based ERC20 tokens, including its own Status token (SNT.)
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Initially, the Keycard will be distributed for free to blockchain developers in early March. Later this year, it will be sold for $29 from Status’ website. Other commonly used cryptocurrency wallets retail for at least twice that price–the Ledger Nano S, for example, is sold for €59 (roughly USD$66.50.)
It’s Not a “Full-End Customer Product”; At this Stage, “It’s a Tool”
Grau was careful to emphasize the fact that the Keycard’s current focus is on developers rather than retail customers. “We’re not announcing a full end customer product with Keycard,” he explained. “We’re releasing a tool actually. That’s the way it should be seen. At this stage, it’s a tool for third-party blockchain projects that want to secure their application with a cost-effective hardware wallet.”
Indeed, the Keycard has been designed in such a way that its barrier of entry to developers is low. The Keycard API (the codebase that works with the hardware to facilitate private key storage, tap-to-pay, and transaction signing) has been built on Java Card, a smart card hardware technology that was originally introduced in 1996.
“Our software is open and runs on Java Card so if a third-party project wants to build its own Keycard, they would use our open-source software and they just need to have it run on the Java Card – which is available through hundreds of manufacturers since it’s such a common hardware,” Grau explained.
Grau believes that the choice to develop Keycard as an open-source endeavor built on commonly used hardware technology is actually an important part of the device’s security.
“Security should be able to be assessed by anyone,” he said. “That’s why software and hardware needs to be [open-source]. That’s the first and most important thing. And then as much as possible, use widely used hardware platforms.” In other words, esoteric programming languages and newly developed hardware can leave technology open to hacks or other kinds of failure.