Walletex CEO Alon Atsmon: I think the [Wallet Flash] shape is the future… The most convenient place is in your wallet.Those little flash memory drives that plug into any USB port and let you carry your files around on your keychain are very useful – but so small they can often slip through your fingers.

So Israeli company Walletex came up with new concept: people take great care of their credit cards, so why not reshape the USB drive into the credit-card-shaped Wallet Flash – the skinniest USB drive on the market ‘ so it pops into your wallet and won’t get lost again?

“I think the card shape is the future,” Walletex CEO Alon Atsmon told ISRAEL21c. “If it is much smaller it gets lost. The most convenient place is in your wallet.”

Atsmon, a graduate of the Israel Defense Forces’ prestigious Talpiot technology program and then the Israeli Air Force, is very familiar with card technology. In 1998 he set up a company called ComSense to develop a battery-powered card for authentication purposes. ComSense was later sold to Israel company Beepcard, but the credit-card shape stuck in Atsmon’s mind, and in 2004 he established Walletex to revolutionize the USB drive market.

“The challenge was to make everything thin,” he explains from the company’s offices in Rishon Lezion. “This is the thinnest USB drive in the world.”

The credit card shaped drive is only 1.9 millimeters thick (less than a tenth of an inch) – approximately equivalent to two credit cards on top of each other – and weighs just 12 grams (0.4 ounce). Slimming down all the electronics to fit into these specifications was no easy task. Another attractive feature is that it is waterproof.

“That is quite unique,” says Atsmon, explaining it wasn’t something the company set out to develop. “It was a side effect of the manufacturing process. In some of the trade shows we put it an aquarium!” he grins.

It is also heat-tolerant. “You can put it in a cup of coffee,” he says.

Wallet Flash, which was launched in December 2005, seems to be exactly what the market was waiting for: the device received an innovation award at the annual International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in January, the prestigious showcase for new technologies and gadgets of all shapes and sizes, was a hit at the European equivalent, CeBIT 2006, in Hanover, Germany, in March, and was voted Gadget of the Day by the UK?s Stuff magazine.

Wallet Flash, which has a double sided USB connecter sticking out from one side, so it doesn?t matter which way up the drive is plugged into the USB port, is available in different memory capacities, from 64 Mb up to 2Gb, and costing from $25 to $120, and can be purchased through Walletex and other retailers online. As well as selling the basic drives, Walletex will customize the product for companies who want to give them away as gifts to customers or employees.

Clients who have already ordered their own Wallet Flashes include multinational accounting firm Deloitte Touch Tohmatsu and Israeli technology company RAD Data Communications. The medical market is one of the areas that Atsmon is very interested in.

“The Wallet Flash can hold personal medical records for the patients,” he enthuses. “People tried to have smart cards for this application but there were no readers. Then came the USB flash drives, but if they are not in a card format, you can’t trust people not to lose them. The right format is the card, and USB is the right technology.”

Walletex is in negotiations with a UK-based company in the medical market for this purpose.

However, flash memory – a market in which several fellow Israeli companies such as M-Systems and SanDisk are industry leaders – isn’t where Walletex is stopping when it comes to credit-card-shaped technology. The start up, which currently has ten employees and is a daughter company of IBDA, an Israeli firm which specializes in subcontracting electronics’ manufacturing, has plans to add more features to the Wallet Flash, such as an audio player, and more that Atsmon prefers not to talk about in detail at this stage.

“We are considering [putting on the Wallet Flash] all consumer electronics that you see on the market,” is all he will say. “We have the patents, we have the technological capability to implement it. It depends on the return on investment. Everything you thought of having on a personal digital assistant (PDA) you can have in a USB drive. This is cheap and it’s more convenient to carry. You can have a whole application on it.”

So wave goodbye to your PDA and your laptop – soon, everything you will need will fit into your wallet.