Toronto firm uses heartbeat as password

Sure they’re being used on the new iPhone 5S, but fingerprint scanners are so yesterday. Toronto biometrics firm Bionym Inc., is offering something definitely newer. The company has developed a wearable authentication device (a bracelet) that relies on its user’s heartbeat to validate that person’s identity.

“We’ve been harassed by the endless stream of prompts, passwords, PINs and locks,” according to the Bionym’s Web site. “We’ll we’ve found a better solution that heightens personal security and allows users to take back their identity. We’ve solved it with a heartbeat.”

To authenticate, a user needs to wear the Nymi, a slim clip-on rubberized bracelet that reads the users heart beats as a form of authentication. The Nymi communicates the user’s identity to other devices using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). It also has a motion sensing feature that allows users to make gesture-specific commands and a proximity detection feature that can sense how far away the use is from devices.

As an added bonus, users only need to validate their identity once, until the Nymi is removed.

The smart appliance-ready device can replace passwords and authentication keys employed in a wide variety of applications including car doors, hotel and office access points, computers, smart phones, tablets and other devices as well as online booking and even financial transactions. The technology can be used in various industries including the financial, retail, government, military, education and medical industries.

The wearable technology space is rapidly growing. In 2012, no less than 30 million wearable tech devices were sold in North America. Some researchers predict sales of wearable computing devices will rise to $160 million by 2017 other reports estimate the market will even reach $6 billion by 2016.

Fingerprints, voice, and facial features have been used for some years now for authentication purposes. A person’s electrocardiogram (ECG) is a another unique biometric, according to Biomym.

The Nymi does not continuously measure a user’s ECG. It reads a user’s ECG only while activating. After that the Nymi provides continuous activation through additional sensors that detects if the Nymi is still on the user’s wrist.

The closed loop keeps the Nymi in an authenticated state removing the need need for repeated prompts such as fingerprint scanning or personal information number (PIN) requests.

Bionym was founded in 2011 by Karl Martin and Foteini Agrafioti who were part of the first cohort of the Creative Destruction Lab at the University of Toronto. The duo organized a team of biometrics, engineering, development, business and communications practitioners to develop biometric and authentication technology for the consumer electronics space.

There are about 3,710 preorders for the Nymi which is currently being offered at an introductory price of $79. After the special offer, the next batch of Nymi bracelets will be sold for $99.

Bionym will be shipping the devices next year.




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Nestor E. Arellano
Nestor E. Arellano
Toronto-based journalist specializing in technology and business news. Blogs and tweets on the latest tech trends and gadgets.

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