Benjamin Hubert, designer, technologist, idea-originator, has put on yet another hat – this time in the controversial fabric of cryptocurrency. TROVE – his new prototype for an ‘unhackable wallet’ – is a physical storage system for your virtual money to safely sit (and hopefully aggregate).

We sat down with the man of many talents to discuss his new design, the big business of Bitcoin, and how he’s braced for the critic’s response...

Wallpaper*: Where did the idea for TROVE first come from?
Benjamin Hubert: Many conversations I was having seemed to be focused on how people are living now, and how they will be living tomorrow – and how they’re thinking about money. Obviously there has been an influx of cryptocurrencies, with one essential problem: they are difficult to manage. They are easily lost, easily hacked, and this is picked up by the media. It was only a matter of time before somebody asked the right questions to find a better solution.

W*: So what is it, and how does it work?
BH:
Alongside an easy to use app, the TROVE Coin is an aluminium wearable device that, like a regular wallet, is a way to store currency for daily spending and trading. The Coin stores cryptocurrency offline on the hardware – rather than online – meaning it is less susceptible to hackers. Users unlock the Coin using their ECG signature (a biometric method of verification that recognises a user’s unique heartbeat pattern) by touching the contact zone on the front. This activates the bluetooth, which communicates with the user’s smartphone and allows funds to be accessed. Unlike other cryptocurrency wallets, which rely on complex password systems, it is impossible to lose or forget the authentication for Coin.

W*: Do you think the use of the way you’ve designed this object to wear will help de-alienate the concept of cryptocurrency?
BH:
Definitely. Part of the project was the idea of softening and humanising what is quite an inhuman and dense subject matter. The idea is to associate cryptocurrency with something more fashion-driven, something closely related to things that you do understand and value. Perhaps it gets the attention of people who wouldn’t normally pay attention to the complex arena of digital currency. I’m interested in what happens when everybody is engaged in the subject matter rather than just the super-early adoptives that might be very tech-informed. I firmly believe technology should not be a barrier to new technologies.

W*: Do you think that cryptocurrency will eventually replace traditional currencies, as its original creators desired?
BH: Very good question, and very difficult to answer. I think aspects of digital currency will overtake and succeed more analogue varieties, but quite how much it proliferates day-to-day in the next few years has a big question mark. What’s interesting to see is the mainstream supermarkets, and takeaway joints are starting to use the currency. Of course there’s a novelty factor to some of that, but it has to start somewhere.

W*: The environmental challenges facing cryptocurrency are unignorable. Do you think there’s a way of overcoming them?
BH: Another very good question. Obviously you need a huge amount of power and other resources to create, mine and store cryptocurency. Often, you need a facility. The only solution would be to create more renewable power sources to drive the engines that are mining. I think it is one of the big roadblocks. The more important cryptocurrencies become, the more scrutiny they will be under, and rightfully so. §