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Wand Aims to Add Magic Touch to Digital Sharing

Wand aims to make sharing simple -- by eliminating the need for numerous apps.

Asa Mathat for Re/code

You’ve heard the lecture: If you want to keep digital passwords secure, don’t share them with anyone else.

But real life doesn’t always work that way.

Guests stay in your home and they need access to your Wi-Fi network, so you share the password. Spouses type in your credentials to log into your Pandora One account. Grandparents get your Dropcam password so they can peek in on their favorite new grandchild.

And you never bother to change the password later on.

Stephen Voss

But at Re/code’s Code Conference, a company called Wand has introduced a mobile app that has a unique solution to that problem — letting people give, or “wand,” account access to someone else without having to share or reveal passwords.

Another element of convenience: Anyone granted access to an account through Wand doesn’t need to have that particular app downloaded first.

“Wand is chat that does stuff,” said Vishal Sharma, founder and CEO of Wand labs. “We call it actionable messaging.”

Wand works for short-time sharing (I wand you my home Wi-Fi password while you’re visiting me for the weekend and it expires Monday) and indefinite account sharing (I wand you my Twitter credentials forever, unless I choose to revoke your access). It also lets people access physical devices, like Sonos music players and Nest thermostats.

Sharma demonstrated this technology, which he describes as semantic linking, onstage today at Code. His previous work at Google, on Google Now and a variety of other projects, gave him experience in machine learning and helped him amass his current team, made up mostly of ex-Googlers.

Sharma’s examples included sending an Uber ride to a friend under his own account and sharing home Wi-Fi credentials with an out-of-town visitor.

Since most people are used to working in app silos — someone starts chatting with you using the Facebook Messenger app and you respond on your own Facebook Messenger app — the way Wand works feels a little foreign. For example, instead of downloading the Spotify app to listen to a song shared from someone’s account, everything you need to hear the song is encapsulated in Wand.

Wand Labs

Of course, both people in this transaction scenario need to have the Wand app downloaded. Initially, it will work on iOS and Android operating systems, accessing more than 35 services and devices.

But what about app developers? If Wand takes off, won’t they be irked to discover that people are no longer downloading and using their apps?

These services — which include Spotify, Amazon, Rdio, Gmail, Instagram, Uber and Yelp — will still be used on the back end, which Wand’s CEO thinks will make them happy.

“It’s not creating a whole new app for these companies,” Sharma said. “It’s a link to their service. We think of it as a new platform, just like a new mobile operating system or a new browser.”

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

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