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CryptoLabs Announces Bitcoin Hardware Wallet with Biometric Authentication

(@pete_rizzo_) | Published on November 19, 2014 at 12:59 GMT

Case, CryptoLabs

Stealth bitcoin startup CryptoLabs stepped into the public eye this week, announcing it will seek to market Case, a pocket-sized, multi-signature bitcoin hardware wallet, in 2015.

The device, which measures around 86mm by 54mm, will enable users to buy and sell, as well as send and receive, bitcoin. CryptoLabs boasts that, in addition to its compact size, Case will provide the latest in security features, including biometric authentication.

Speaking to CoinDesk, CEO Melanie Shapiro framed the company's first offering as one that strives to strike a balance between the usability of mobile smartphone wallets and the security of existing hardware storage solutions, such as the Trezor wallet.

Shapiro said:

"The difference is that this is an actual wallet. You can take it with you. Trezor has to be plugged into your computer for you to use it. This plugs into nothing."

Shapiro indicated that CrytoLabs will begin manufacturing its Case product on 25th November and that the device will be made available for pre-sale in December.

"There's no development after that," Shapiro explained. "We know we can build it, everything is done. The actual hardware will be done and it will be going down the manufacturing line for actual shipment."

Shipping is expected to commence next spring, the company said.

The company did not disclose either the weight of the product or the likely price, stating that both are currently to be finalized. However, Shapiro estimated that Case would be "more expensive than the Trezor", which retails for $119.

Eliminating trust

Key to CryptoLabs' hardware wallet will be its reliance on multi-signature technology. The device will provide users with three keys, each of which is stored in a different location and secured by a different layer of authentication, one of which will be fingerprint scanning.

"I think that something that echoes in bitcoin is not having to trust anything," Shapiro said. "We've done everything in our power to make sure you don't have to really trust us."

These precautions include distributing the three keys for each device, providing one to the end user, one to a server and the other to a cold-storage facility managed by a third party.

"If there's a hack on a server, [the attacker is] only ever going to have access to one key," Shapiro explained. "You have to get into cold storage and steal the finger off somebody's body to get into their bitcoin. So the security of it is fairly robust."

Users will be able to access the device using the fingerprint scanner and a camera embedded in each unit. The device's global system for mobile communications (GSM) SIM card will also enable it to be used in more than 60 countries worldwide, according to the company.

Choosing the form factor

One of the core goals of CryptoLabs' design process was to create a hardware wallet that provided consumers with the familiarity of traditional financial products.

"Even in 2014, when you think about payments, embedded in our minds is the idea of credit card. That shape is what we think of when we think of payments," Shapiro said.

As such, Shapiro said it was important to the company that Case should be small enough to fit into a pocket or traditional wallet. She went on to suggest that CryptoLabs will seek to make future versions of its product as thin as a credit card too.

Ultimately, Shapiro expressed her hope that this emphasis on usability and security will help set her company's offering apart from other hardware solutions, adding:

"This is easy enough for you to use at a coffee shop. You can keep it in your back pocket, but it also has the kind of security [that users need], even more so than ease of use."

Embracing bitcoin's market challenges

CryptoLabs is also notable given Shapiro's history as an entrepreneur, having sold instant-messaging and social client startup Digsby to San Francisco-based social network Tagged for an undisclosed amount in 2011.

It was following this successful exit and during her tenure studying with Microsoft for her PhD that Shapiro says she first learned about bitcoin on the company's online forums.

Originally from a software background, Shapiro indicated that she began to focus on hardware when considering a venture in the bitcoin space due to her belief that the digital currency's users were underserved.

The unique opportunity to provide bitcoin's enthusiastic early adopters with a product that could improve their lives, she suggested, was also a factor that, in turn, made her excited by the space.

Shapiro concluded:

"I think there's room in this industry for a leading hardware product and I think that the community is going to react well to this. It solves a number of problems, plus it's cool."

See CryptoLabs' introductory video below:

Images via CryptoLabs

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