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Friday, September 29, 2006

Plastic World

I lost my wallet yesterday (or perhaps it was taken from me) on my way to the airport in Seoul, South Korea.

I remember using it last to pay for the airport bus at the hotel. A couple of hours later, at the airport, it was no longer with me. With only an hour or so to go until my flight, I barely had time to get my wits together and start cancelling my credit cards in 4 different countries. I had to continue the process during the flight itself; thank you Lufthansa for wireless access on board...

In one instant I came to realize how much we rely on the "Plastic World". I had several cards in my wallet: six credit cards, one ATM card, a DeutscheBahn train card, my medical insurance card, my drivers license, my dialling card and probably another few cards I don't quite remember were there. (Thankfully, my passport was in a separate place). Suddenly I was unable to withdraw cash, to make phone calls, to rent a car or to reserve anything online. It's going to take a while until all my cards are renewed and until then I will be living in a crippled, Plastic-less world.

Here's an idea for a startup: a memory chip that will contain all personal data and cards which, if lost, can be reproduced at any bank or post office in the world by identifying the owner, preferably using DNA, fingerprints, etc. The technology is surely there and it's only a question of putting the right checks and balances in place to avoid misuse of such a technology.

I'm off to London after Yom Kippur. It's going to be a cash-only trip as I won't have my credit cards renewed by then; I'm not looking forward to that experience...

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