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This “Live Checking Card” concept design from Yoon Jin-Young, Lee Jun-Kyo, Lee Young-Ho, and Kim Jin-Yi has been getting a lot of bandwidth around the tubes, lately. Ignoring the details of technical implementation, the notion itself is straightforward: Your check card shows you exactly how much money you have available to spend and tracks that amount, essentially in real time. This idea won the prestigious red dot design concept award for 2009.

It has also provided me with a nice MAKE-related excuse to go on a couple of badly-needed but (I hope) uncharacteristic rants. If you’re interested in the idea and would rather not patronize my soapbox, go ahead and click here to read all about it over at Yanko Design.

Otherwise…I have no problem with the thing itself. It’s conceptual, and I don’t really know if it actually can be made to work in the physical world at a reasonable cost or not. If so, great! I’d love to have one and I think most other folks would, too.

But here’s the rub: Even if it’s workable, the banks that issue debit and credit cards are not going to rush to adopt it, since it is manifestly in their interests for you not to be able to track your balances in real time, perhaps because they make a bundle charging overdraft fees and/or because they don’t want you to see all those decimal places when you pull out the card and, maybe, thereby be deterred from making a purchase. If it were in their interests to provide true real-time balance tracking, it would already be ubiquitous. It’s not like we don’t have the technology. On the other hand, perhaps if this concept can get off the ground, it might stir up enough consumer interest that eventually one bank or another will decide to cave, and the rest will have to follow suit to stay competitive. Again, let’s hope so. But I’m not holding my breath.

My second major gripe concerns the blatantly sexist hype surrounding the idea, which has more to do with my fellow bloggers than it does with the design or those responsible for it. I won’t name any names, but several of the recent blog posts I’ve read have billed the concept as a handy solution for the hardworking man who is tired of his wife or girlfriend who either claims to be, or actually is, perpetually unable to track her expenses and thereby runs up large bills he then has to pay. I’m not normally one to sound the “sexism” horn (in fact, I think this is the first time I have ever publicly done so) but, geez, this is 2010, people–no gender has a monopoly on being lousy with money.

OK. Thanks for listening to me sound off. Feel free to do likewise in the comments below.

Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I write for MAKE, serve as Technical Editor for MAKE magazine, and develop original DIY content for Make: Projects.


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