If someone says that they want to steal your heart, be careful. They may be trying to get into your computer files. The Toronto-based biometrics company Bionym wants to replace old-fashioned passwords with Nymi; a bracelet that uses the wearer’s heartbeat in place of passwords. According to the developers, the system delivers a secure and convenient means of identification that also provides the potential to control devices using gestures.
Cybercrime is a billion dollar problem that’s made security a top priority. Unfortunately, for most of us online digital security means an endless repetition of logins with a bewildering raft of passwords and PINs. The need to handle all these passwords also provides opportunities for them to fall into the wrong hands, as well as tempting us to use easy to remember passwords that are in turn easier to deduce.
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Biometrics based on fingerprints and retina scans offer ways to get around this by turning the person into the password, but while they improve security, they are not without some shortcomings. Fingerprints can be lifted or forged for example, and there’s still the matter of presenting hands or eyes for scans, which can be as tedious as punching in passwords.
The Nymi bracelet aims to replace this by turning the user’s heartbeat into the password that's seamless and automatic in its operation. It works by means of the user’s electrocardiogram (EKG), which is encoded in the bracelet. Like fingerprints, an EKG is unique to each person, but unlike fingerprints, people don’t leave their EKG lying around every time they pick up the phone. This makes it a biometric that is, at the very least, very difficult to obtain and forge.
The device works in conjunction with a smartphone or device running the Nymi app. After an initial set-up where samples of cardiac rhythms are registered, Bionym says that it is very simple to use. Putting the bracelet on and touching the contact confirms your identity against the recorded EKG and will authenticate you to other devices while you wear the bracelet.
So long as the bracelet is put on while the you are relaxed and calm, and your EKG is updated regularly, the link up will work. If a Nymi is lost, it can’t be used because it is keyed to the owner’s EKG signature. The company claims that the system is “both tamper-proof and impossible to duplicate.”
The Nymi bracelet uses Bluetooth Low Energy to transmit identification to your devices and to enable the bracelet to act as a proximity sensor. It also contains an accelerometer and gyroscope for motion sensing and gesture control, which the company says extends to the control of smartphones, computers, televisions and even car doors.
Scheduled for shipping in early 2014, Bionym is promoting a developer community by providing data about the Nymi bracelet to help in the creation of new applications.
The Nymi bracelet is now available for pre-order at US$79 for the first 25,000 customers with the later price set at US$99.
The video below shows off the capabilities of the Nymi bracelet.