Co.Design

Keepod Stores Your Computer On A Card

Linux drives have always appealed to geeks for secure portability. But what if they were packaged for consumers, instead?

Linux boot drives have been around for a long time. Geeks keep a USB stick loaded with their own operating system in their pocket all the time. And when they show up at a computer lab, all it takes is a quick plugging to load their own operating system on top of whatever is there. With smartphone and laptop ubiquity, I wouldn’t be surprised if this trend were on the way out--but there was always something neat about the idea of an OS in your pocket.

Keepod is a pocketable version of Linux for those of us without a computer science degree. It’s a smiling, hardware-encrypted USB card that’ll load a secure, custom OS on top of any public terminal--along with your documents and other media--in just 20 to 30 seconds. But it’s also equipped with NFC, meaning that it can serve as a wireless ID or virtual wallet, to do things like unlock the door to your office building or pay for a ride on the subway.

Yet the Keepod is almost the creation from another timeline--one where consumers stayed fiscally conservative. We didn’t have triple-digit monthly bills for our cellphones, and we saw computers as part of a government-supplied infrastructure, like buses or railroads, that we shared. At the same time, this is precisely the cultural counterpoint that makes Keepod so appealing. It’s the anti-shiny gadget.

“Everyone is designing their products to look so perfect, and users are going crazy to keep them so perfect by spending money on covers,” CEO Nissan Bahar explains. “We designed Keepod knowing that the user will drop it, lose it, or spill something on it. It will get stolen, etc. It needs to be treated for what it is, just a piece of plastic. And if you lose it, no worries, get a new one and within a few minutes everything is back and you are ready to go.”

Don’t let appearances fool you. That smiling, yellow card is at the pinnacle of industrial design. It inherently feels like an ID, yet it’s crafted to communicate with any computer seamlessly. But the best part of all? It’s way too cool to care.

The Keepod is currently in beta testing.

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[Hat tip: designboom]

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2 Comments

  • Looks like a great idea. I would obviously want there to be a method of backing this up, but I have yet to lose my keycard at work or my credit card, so I guess the potential of losing this is about the same.

    I lived off a bootable 16gb thumbdrive for a while, and was amazed at how gratifying an experience it was. With a little more tweaking, it might be possible to make it so that personal computers do not need to be personal computers, just personal dumb terminals at which you insert your card, boot, and go.

  • Daniel Kim

    The USB plug looks like a physical point of failure, though. Since the wide card is connected only through the USB interface, and dangles several inches away from the host device, it looks easy to accidentally break. If one hits the card, the host USB receptacle can also be damaged. The width of the card also covers up adjacent USB ports, which can be a problem for users. Finally, many public-access computers are set to reject USB boot devices in order to prevent the introduction of malware or unauthorized activity on their local network.

    On the other hand, a new type of public-access PC could be introduced in conjunction with a bootable-USB device, in which public host PCs without local hard drives can be booted by customers using this or other, 'geekier' boot-USB devices. Diskless hosts will not retain information from previous clients, nor will they harbor malware between sessions. Customers who do not carry their own boot devices can rent or otherwise check out one from the manager of the public-access PC venue, whether it is a library, cafe or school. Rented boot devices can be made read-only.

    Using a "frugal install" system such as is found in Puppy Linux, a regular customer could retain their custom settings, applications and files in a separate filesystem archive on their own non-booting USB memory device. A read-only boot device with Puppy Linux would start the computer and then search for an appropriate filesystem archive to incorporate into the system, giving the customer a personalized user experience without having to carry their entire operating system and bootloader.