Fingerprint sensors may be in vogue for use in mobile payments, security, and identifying users, but a Canadian startup thinks it has a better idea. Bionym created a wearable ID bracelet that uses your unique heartbeat pattern to determine your identity. It can be used to unlock phones, in place of passwords, and other scenarios where security is paramount.
Just like your fingerprint, the rhythm produced by your heartbeat is unique to you. Bionym says its Nymi Band uses an electrocardiogram sensor to get a ECG reading of your overall heart beat wave. To measure your ECG with the Nymi Band, all you have to do is strap it on your wrist, touch a sensor that’s located on the top of the device, and make sure the band is touching your wrist. Once the band has determined the shape of your heartbeat wave, it sends the info via Bluetooth to a companion app on your smartphone.
The main advantage of using someone’s cardiac rhythm instead of their fingerprint is that it’s more difficult to reproduce or copy. After all, nearly every fingerprint sensor that’s been placed on smartphones from the likes of Samsung and Apple has been hacked within weeks of the product’s release. According to Bionym, the other huge benefit is that you don’t have to re-read your heartbeat every time you want to log into an account or unlock a device. Once the band and app know your heartbeat wave, you’re good to go.
The Nymi Band also has an accelerometer and gyroscope onboard to read gestures and your proximity to objects. Theoretically, the Nymi Band could be used to unlock more than just accounts and devices — it could also unlock car doors, locks, and other locked objects.
Never having to carry keys or remember passwords again sounds great, but naturally, the Nymi Band raises many concerns about the privacy and security of users’ personal data. In an interview with TechCrunch, the CEO and co-founder Karl Martin assured the publication that there is a cryptographic chip embedded in the band, which keeps your data safe from prying eyes. Other apps will have to ask permission from the user before gaining access to the ECG reading.
The Nymi Band will be compatible with iOS, Android, Windows PCs, and OS X Macs. The company has an SDK for developers and hopes to see many apps embrace its technology. Recently, the company gained $14 million in funding from investors. Among those interested in the Nymi Band are MasterCard and Salesforce, which hints that it may be a viable solution for mobile payments.
The Nymi Band is available for preorder on Bionym’s website for $80. The company says it will ship the bands later this fall.