One of the major barriers between Bitcoin and the average non-tech-savvy user is the inherent complexity in Bitcoin technology, especially regarding the diverse world of bitcoin wallets. Most secure methods for storing bitcoins require technical knowledge that is outside the scope of average people, and most user-friendly services lack the tight security that is undoubtedly needed in the Bitcoin space.
Hardware wallets are a good security solution for storing funds, but few of them offer a truly intuitive and simple user experience.
The Case Wallet
After more than a year of hard work, the New York based startup formerly known as CryptoLabs launched its hardware wallet solution: Case, a credit-card sized portable hardware wallet, integrated with a little screen, a camera, a fingerprint sensor(yes, biometric authentication) and a few buttons.
Case is aimed at offering the most simple way for people to use Bitcoin, while also maximizing security, wiithout compromising on ease of use.
The wallet is currently available for pre-order for $199 from their official site and promises to be shipping this summer.(EDIT: The case has already shipped and is currently sold out)
Using the wallet
One of the principal usability flaws in the majority of hardware wallets, is that most of them are not really “wallets” in the full sense of the word. That is, you can’t send bitcoins from them, or at least not without integrating them with other wallets or special computer-hosted applications. For example, the trezor requires a host computer, or a mobile phone(which supports OTG) to use the wallet.
Case wallet is not only made to safely store bitcoins, but it’s also capable of executing transactions by itself. Featuring a GSM embedded chip, Case doesn’t rely on phones or computers for internet access, being able to directly sign and broadcast transactions to the Bitcoin network.
Also, the device has an integrated camera to scan QR codes, and a fingerprint scanner for authentication.
For using the Case wallet, only 3 steps are necessary:
- Press the ฿ button.
- Scan the recipient address’ QR code.
- Swipe your finger on the fingerprint reader.(yes, a swipe)
This is certainly a very simple interaction flow when compared to most other hardware wallets.
Also, users can connect their Case account to the Celery exchange. After verifying their US bank account with Celery, users are able to buy and sell bitcoins from their Case wallet. Though, this is only for US based users, it is still a major advancement in the way bitcoin hardware wallets have evolved over the past few years
Case is a multisignature wallet, requiring 2 of 3 different private keys, in order to effectively sign new transactions.
One key is in the device itself, kept by the user. The second key is held by the company. And the third one is kept in an offline safe vault, managed by Third Key Solutions, a cryptographic key management provider founded by Andreas Antonopoulos.
In case of theft or loss, users need only to report it to the company, and they’ll still be able to recover their funds with the third key.
The use of biometric authentication is one of the most innovative features of the Case wallet. Other hardware wallet alternatives often rely on multi-step confirmation methods, passwords, security cards and captchas, which are most probably secure, but not as user-friendly as just swiping your finger on your device.
Once a new transaction has been started, it’s only signed by the company private key if the fingerprint scan matches the user’s biometric data.
However, an image of the user’s fingerprint isn’t directly stored at Case servers. Instead, a geometric template of the fingerprint is encrypted together with all other sensitive user data in what they call the User Data Encryption Key (UDEK). The key to decrypt such data resides solely in the device.
All communication between the device and the servers is secured by TLS (Transport Layer Security). Also, sensitive data is encrypted with a shared symmetric key that is unique for each device.
- Extremely easy to use, allowing to quickly spend bitcoins directly from the device.
- Multisignature validation, providing enough security without complicated extra steps.
- Biometric authentication. No need for passwords or security cards.
- Practical and portable design.
- Ability to buy and sell bitcoins.
- Built-in inductive charging coil. No ports or wires.
- Open source firmware.
- You need to rely on the company servers, adding a level of trust, which not many would want to do.
Case is definitely one secure and clever solution for any type of user. It offers high security while also making it extremely easy to use bitcoins on a daily basis or for long-term storage, and even buy or sell bitcoins.
However, having to rely on their servers to sign and execute transactions adds a layer of trust that is not particularly desirable in the context of bitcoin wallets. The only disadvantage is that Case is too pricey at $199, which not everyone would want to spend on a hardware wallet. Compared to the trezor, which costs $99(half of the price of Case)
All things considered, the Case wallet is indeed a very innovative alternative, which is clearly oriented to boost Bitcoin adoption by providing strong security along with a very simple interaction process to anyone.