Earlier this fall Visa announced a new credit card in Europe that comes with its 48x8 pixel LCD panel on the back, just above where your signature would normally go. Called the CodeSure Matrix Display Card, the idea is to have a more secure credit card, that can be used for online shopping where you have to use your card without swiping it at a retail payment terminal. This is what the credit industry calls "card not present" and they charge higher per-transaction fees to the merchants because of the fraud potentials seen.
The CodeSure card can be used as a regular Visa debit, credit or pre-payment card. In addition to the display, it comes with a numeric keypad and a battery that is supposed to last up to three years. After testing over the past year, the card is now commercially available in Europe.
Visa says that the card "can also be used for services like eBanking, telephone banking, transactions signing and access to third party services." It can offer messages in non-Roman alphabets too, should that be an issue. Similar to an encrypted key fob, it provides a one-time PIN number that is used during the transaction to verify the owner's identity. This is done via the numeric keypad. Issuing banks can use this card to verify that they are indeed talking to their customers and not someone who has stolen their card.
Two vendors have helped bring this card to market: NagraID Security's display technology was combined with Emue Technologies, who handled the authentication piece.
The small display on the card reminds me of one of my first portable computers, the classic Radio Shack model 100. It had a 40x7 character display and built-in text editing and communications software, along with a blazingly fast 300 bps modem, all in a package about the size of several iPads stacked on top of each other. Now of course, this had a full QWERTY keypad, but it seems we have come a long way since this trusty old beast.