Every time you think of getting into this ‘crypto’ thingy that you keep hearing so much about, you are put off by the levels of complexity involved, starting from procuring these elusive virtual tokens from odd sounding exchanges (What exactly is ‘Coinbase’ even supposed to mean anyway?) to the hassle of storing them safely, often by writing down gibberish on a piece of paper you are supposed to guard with your life (Well on second thoughts, perhaps not with your life). That is before you even dare to think about actually using them, involving a completely different set of complexities like public keys, private keys, generating addresses and what not.
Well, seems like you are finally in luck.
A new wallet called Ethos has just hit the town, promising to offer the entire crypto ecosystem under one metaphorical roof. Better yet, as a mobile application, it places the crypto world literally at your fingertips, letting you do everything from sending coins to keeping track of their fates with a single touch. And with a dozen new features still lined up, it is all set to do even more.
The core offering of the Ethos app, the smartwallet is a multi-crypto ‘hot’ wallet that promises to store your coins – or rather, the addresses to them – in a secure, yet easy to transact manner. Featuring unparalleled security and a slick user interface, the wallet supports a host of coins across different blockchains, with more being added every day to take it closer toward the ‘Universal’ tag it boasts of.
The first question that is asked every time a new wallet hits the market, is How safe my wallet really is?
And sadly, the answer that mostly comes up is, Not much, really. Even Jaxx, by far the the most popular kid on the block, has some serious security flaws that undermine its premise of becoming the go-to option for crypto enthusiasts. In such a scenario, it is usually advised not to store a large number of coins on these ‘hot’ wallets, keeping one’s investments in safer hardware alternatives like Trezor or Ledger Nano.
But Ethos seems set to change all this. With security features ranging from a 256- bit seed to biometric authentication, the Ethos smartwallet has taken every possible step to assure the safety of your digital assets.
In the beginning, all was good. There was only one bitcoin, and all you had to do was write down its private key to a piece of paper and chuck it into a safe. Then came Ethereum. And Ripple. And Litecoin. Before you knew it, coins were sprouting out of nowhere faster than you could say ‘Jack Robinson’, and you were running out of paper to write all those keys down.
Then one clever bloke came up with the idea of HD, as in Hierarchical Deterministic. Basically, the concept revolves around generating a large (practically, endless) number of public keys and addresses in for different coins and blockchains from a single starting ‘seed’, effectively compressing all those addresses down to a just one key. This key can then be used to recreate the same addresses again even on a different platform, allowing access to one’s funds across any device without having to transmit the key to a server.
The Ethos smartwallet implements this as the SmartKey, a 24 word sequence generated by the random motions effected by the user during account set up, guaranteeing a unique set of addresses for each. This mnemonic phrase also doubles up as a failsafe means of access to the account in the event of catastrophic damage to the phone, and as such is meant to be carefully held by the user alone, in essence acting as a private ‘key’ to that person’s crypto vault.
Or as a crypto obsessed Sauron would have said
“One key to rule them all, one key to find them; one key to bring them all and in the darkness bind them. In the land of crypto, where encryption hides.”
As has been shown with many wallets in the past, merely using a private seed and a PIN does not guarantee security; hackers can insert malicious code that keylogs your actions, recording both the mnemonic phrase and the PIN, therefore potentially siphoning out all your funds elsewhere. To combat this, the Ethos app uses a virtual keyboard for entering such vital data, protecting the input from being intercepted by nefarious agents.
Double Layer Authentication
While using a PIN for login is standard practice for any crypto wallet, Ethos goes a step further by also mandating biometric authentication, ensuring your wallet can never fall into wrong hands.
NOTE: As of now, the Ethos app does not logout the user automatically if left unattended, granting access to anyone after it has been logged in once by the actual user. While the Ethos team is working to fix this by the next update, for now it would be best to remember to log yourself out manually after you are done with it.
While Ethos may well be the most secure crypto wallet out there, one should do well to remember that it is just another piece of technology, only as secure as the person holding it. Even though the app may be protected against sophisticated technical attacks, it will not protect to against an unsophisticated thief out to simply beat the ‘truth’ out of you: the classic $5 wrench attack.
Setting up the Smartwallet
Step 1 Getting started with Ethos is very easy. Since it is a mobile application, simply grab it from your respective store (Google Play for android users, App store for those on the iOS) and install it. On running it, you should be greeted by a login screen.
Step 2 Register yourself with Ethos, and check your inbox for the verification email. Once the process is complete, you can login yourself to actually begin creating your own smartwallet.
Step 3 Clicking on ‘Add New’ brings you to a choice, as the Ethos Universal app has two distinct modes, the Smartwallet or the Watchfolio. Choose the Smartwallet for now.
Step 4 Next, the app will ask you to name your wallet. No need to be too particular, as you can always change it later.
Step 5 Now comes the fun part; In order to create a truly random seed for yourself, you are required to shake your phone. So, shake it, shake as if your life depends on it!
Step 6 Once the process is completed successfully (it should barely take a couple of minutes), you will be presented with a numbered list of 24 words, 6 at a time. This is your wallet’s mnemonic phrase, so make sure you note down all the words in the correct order.
Step 7 Once you have noted down the words, Ethos will ask you to enter three of them to confirm that you duly followed the exercise. After you pass this test, the app will prompt you to choose a four digit or higher PIN that would be used to encrypt your previously generated smartkey, and also serve as your password for using the wallet.
Step 8 That’s it! You have created your own Smartwallet. Load it up with some coins next to see those pretty logos fill up all that empty space. Hold on a second. I never told you how to receive coins, did I?
Follow me down to the next section!
Receiving coins to your Smartwallet
It is all very well to create a super secure crypto wallet, but its not much good if there is nothing in it, is it? So let’s rectify this glaring shortcoming.
From within your Smartwallet, tap on ‘Add Coin’. You will be presented with a list of coins and tokens. Select the coin you want to add, and you will see it magically appearing in your wallet. But you aren’t done yet! Tap on the coin once more and select ‘Transact’.
This is is where it gets a little tricky. You see, receiving coins to a wallet requires transmitting the wallet’s public key – a dense alphanumeric string of text that has to be reproduced exactly by the sender of funds. To make this as simple as possible, most wallets, including Ethos, use QR codes. Hence the tiny QR code icon on the bottom right corner, labelled ‘Send/Receive’.
Tap on the icon, and on the coin that you wish to transact. In the overlay, select ‘Receive’. You will be shown a QR code that represents your address; scan it with another wallet or crypto exchange to transfer funds to it. Congratulations! Your wallet finally has some (digital) cash!
If you are over eager to send these newly received coins (maybe to make a payment?), follow the above steps again, just making sure to hit ‘Send’. Instead of being shown a QR code, you would be prompted to scan one, or enter the code manually. Since sending funds is a riskier business than receiving it, the app would verify your credentials with your biometrics and your PIN before it carries out the transaction.
The most tedious part of investing in cryptocurrencies has to be the monitoring – you have to manually keep track of every piece of coin you own in your various addresses, and remember the price points at which you bought them, and sift through the numerous exchanges trading them before you can get the slightest idea of where your investments are headed.
Not any more.
The Ethos Watchfolio lets you add any coin you purportedly own (even if you don’t actually possess one – can be handy for just checking out the market) and specify its entry price-point to track their relevant statistics and changes in real-time, helped out by easy to understand charts and graphs for those more visually oriented. The good part is that you can even add coins you have in cold storage, allowing you to keep an eye on their worth without bringing them out into the big, bad world. And yes, since the Ethos smartwallet ultimately aims to let you trade in cryptocurrencies from the app itself, you would also be able to sell that hot stuff before it goes out of fashion.
Trying out the Ethos Watchfolio
Follow the first few steps in the Smartwallet section, until you come to the choice between the Smartwallet and Watchfolio; This time, tap on the Watchfolio instead.
You will be taken straight away to your Watchfolio, for unlike a Smartwallet, a Watchfolio is only a hypothetical collection of coins, not an actual storage for them, and thus does not need any security checks. Browse to the coin of your choice (perhaps the one you that is chilling back in that cold storage of yours?), and select the quantity, price, and date of your trade to have it added to your Watchfolio for automatic tracking of its fate in the market. You can even create a Wishlist to compare the performance of some new coins before you decide to buy them.
The Watchfolio by itself is not much interesting. It is only when taken together with the Ethos Universal Wallet’s in-app coin profiles does the feature truly begin to shine. Ethos tracks vital marketing statistics of every supported coin, along with providing a small snippet about its history and user submitted ratings. Even more useful are the different kinds of charts, indicating the changing fortunes of the coin across hours, days, weeks, or even years, in an easy to digest format, allowing you to make sound investment decisions without having to scout around the internet.
Upcoming Ethos Wallet features
Like any fledgling application, the Ethos universal wallet is has just began testing the waters, ironing out bugs and sizing the market before it rolls out its big guns. Posited as a crypto ecosystem rather than just a wallet, there are many things still in the works for this shining ambassador of change.
“The Ethos Airdrop Program is not an inducement in any way.”
Yeah, right. The guys at Ethos are paragons of virtue, totally not motivated by the baser instincts afflicting us lesser mortals… Anyways, the upshot is that Ethos has entered into a partnership with quite a number of lesser known tokens, which would be airdropped (ie. given away for free!) in the near future. The exact conditions surrounding the event are not yet clear; earlier, it was being believed that only pre-registered users of the wallet would be eligible, but post the release of the wallet, Ethos has clarified that new users would also be able to participate, though the complete details are still not forthcoming. So download the app, register yourself, and keep your fingers crossed – maybe some coins will land right into your lap.
Custom Crypto Domains
Imagine if you had to enter something like 2001:4860:4860::8888 every time you wanted to search something on Google. Tedious, no? Yet that is exactly how blockchain works right now, with every person’s account represented by a bunch of gibberish like mwkXG8NnB2snbqWTcpNiK6qqGHm1LebHDc, which makes remembering or dealing with them humanly impossible.
Enter Verified Wallet Domains. By giving your wallet a unique, readable name, Verified Wallet Domains would let you reserve your space on the blockchain, allowing you to easily send and receive payments without tinkering with unwieldy text and numbers. A silver bullet for businesses, it can finally bring big brands into the crypto economy, kicking off unprecedented growth and interest in the virtual currencies. And of course you can always use it to surreptitiously pay for that can of beer you sneaked in under your dad’s nose as well; after all, no one can prove those coins originated from you, can they?
A persistent thorn in the side of crypto wallets has been their inability to store coins offline, exposing the user’s entire holdings to attacks by scrupulous hackers. This has hampered the adoption and large scale use of wallets, forcing users to revert to safe, even if clunky options like hardware wallets or the old-fashioned piece of paper, which are not accessible from the internet.
But from the very beginning, Ethos has been signalling its intent to make hardware wallets redundant. How exactly this would be achieved is still far from clear, with the makers of Ethos describing it as a “nano ledger in the sky”, which makes it appear as some sort of offline storage facility for the private keys of its users, only the transaction signing mechanism of which would be exposed to the network. If properly implemented, the innovation indeed has the potential to unseat every other wallet out there, hardware or otherwise, and catapult Ethos to the position of the de-facto wallet of choice for every crypto holder.
Perhaps the most anticipated feature of the Ethos Universal Wallet, many people (including me) were disappointed when the app launched without it. Basically, a Fiat gateway would allow a user to exchange his digital assets for traditional, ‘fiat’ currencies and vice-versa, letting you buy your favourite coins with your credit card or sell off your excess reserves to cash in on a bull run from the app itself. As simple as this sounds, the feature is non-trivial to implement, requiring a host of licenses and permissions besides technological shenanigans to make it work smoothly; consequently, this ability is only offered by leading crypto exchanges, who charge hefty fees for it.
Once the kinks are worked out, however, the development will have far reaching consequences, integrating the traditional and digital markets to an unforeseen limit. This would not only destroy the business of exchanges like Coinbase, which currently maintain a monopoly over the transaction of cryptocurrencies, but also redefine payments by utilizing cryptocurrency as a medium of transmission that transcends regulations and national boundaries, rendering service like Paypal with their extravagant fees useless.
Perhaps you can now understand why I personally refer to this feature as ‘The Giant killer’.
There is only so much that Ethos alone can do. In order to be the game changer that it wants to be, the Ethos Wallet seeks to team up with services across the spectrum of the finance industry, pulling out cryptocurrency from its niche to impact the world at large.
The ultimate aim of the Ethos project is to break down the barriers that constrain cryptocurrency from being considered as a legitimate alternative to fiat currencies. Where one arm of this concerns with providing a means of easily holding and transacting in cryptocurrencies, the other arm is tasked with infusing a measure of stability and security in digital assets, bringing it on par with traditional financial instruments.
Fusion Financial is that other arm, working to integrate securities and cryptocurrencies into a single investment market. Regulated by the SEC, Fusion is an automated investment service that follows a hybrid investment model combining traditional stocks with well performing cryptocurrencies. Earlier, questions were being raised about its ability to offer a seamless experience across the rather fractured cryptocurrency space, but the arrival of the Ethos Universal Wallet and all that it entails has put those fears to rest. It is not unthinkable to envision a near future where one could shift ones investment from a tanking security to digital gold – all within the Ethos app.
Despite all its talk of freedom and unlimited liquidity, a cryptocurrency is actually pretty hard to transact with, reducing it to a curiosity found in the wallets of a handful nerds and geeks. In order to foster mainstay adoption of cryptos, it is necessary to bring it to the sphere of small, everyday transactions that make up normal life. To that end, Ethos has announced a partnership with the reputed merchant payment solutions company Payroc, which manages payment gateways for small and big businesses. By integrating with the Payroc ecosystem, Ethos gains the ability to offer direct and hassle free crypto payments to merchants, further incentivizing customers and sellers alike to make the move toward cryptocurrency. When considered along with its other initiatives like Verified Wallet Domains, one cannot help but be convinced of the imminent explosion of cryptos in the commercial space.
It is often said to be perilous to make predictions in tech. Yet sometimes an offering is backed by such a wealth of innovation, that is almost stupid to attempt to refute its supremacy. The Ethos Universal Wallet would be one such instance, where even a cursory glance through its aspects reveals an ecosystem that is mature, well designed, and possessing incredible potential. There is no reason not to call Ethos a gamechanger in the world of cryptocurrencies; one that could shake up the status quo for the better.