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Nymi wristband uses your heartbeat as a password

By

September 4, 2013

The Nymi bracelet uses the wearers EKG for identification

The Nymi bracelet uses the wearers EKG for identification

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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.

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 identifies the wearer when he puts it on and touches a sensor

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 comes in a choice of colors

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.

Source: Nymi via Popular Science

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past.   All articles by David Szondy
10 Comments

You really need to access your data quickly, thus you are in excited state, heartbeat raises, the EKG isn't recognized, that triggers anxiety that raises heartbeat, etc...

If fingerprints aren't enough, I think retina scan is still the best choice (I don't know if it's a much more expensive technology).

Giolli Joker
4th September, 2013 @ 02:45 am PDT

@Giolli Joker. Having worked with the technology myself I can tell you that heart rates and your level of anxiety or excitedness have nothing to do with how an ECG/EKG is captures and compared for uniqueness. Fingerprints are easily spoofed and has been known now for some time. Retina scans are invasive. Rather IRIS scans are what you are talking about and they are extremely expensive to accommodate for the masses.

Rocky Stefano
4th September, 2013 @ 04:50 am PDT

Like many middle aged folks in the Western World, I have hypertension (high blood presssure)- so my blood pressure can vary throughout the day, and be boosted by adrenaline at times of stress (including when the alarm clock goes off).

So unless you have a zen-like sense of calm, I think this product might be limited in terms of the people who would be able to use it as intended.

bergamot69
4th September, 2013 @ 05:20 am PDT

So, replace the tedium of passwords, finger prints and retinal scans with the tedium of having to ensure that your heart rate, when you try to log in to a device, is within some predetermined range of the established rythym stored on this password device as well as having to make sure you keep your EKG pattern updated on a regular basis.

But this is irrelevant because this thing is gimmicky enough to sell without anybody giving the tedium of owning and using this device a second thought until it is sitting on a shelf collecting dust.

Rt1583
4th September, 2013 @ 06:09 am PDT

I agree with Giolli and more: you EKG is "difficult to obtain" BECAUSE no one, but you, has any use for it... until it becomes a valuable biometric signature. THEN, thieves will invent ways to copy it (which will be easy if you are always wearing a bracelet that broadcasts the info).

piperTom
4th September, 2013 @ 07:31 am PDT

One potential weakness of biometric authentication is the level of detail that is maintained in the reference file. For instance, while we all have unique fingerprints or retina scans, if the file that is stored is not of high enough "resolution" then it is not impossible to spoof.

f8lee
4th September, 2013 @ 11:46 am PDT

Exactly as I was thinking, you just capture the RF signal and tag it with your own identifier so you know where to use it. Locks are for deterring honest people. Real criminals and sociopaths will ALWAYS find a way around "security" systems, even if they have to resort to building back doors into a system like Windows has.

Randy

Expanded Viewpoint
4th September, 2013 @ 01:54 pm PDT

It's a very good biometric authentication device.

I am wondering, after recording my EKG, what if i got sick, dose this affect the EKG? what if my heart got some problems or turbulence, i think this will affect the EKG!

Tamer Ahmad Gomaa
5th September, 2013 @ 04:19 am PDT

The Level of ignorance, for a supposedly educated bunch of...nerds... is to damn high in this area of commentary. It matters not, how fast your heart is pumping, how constricted your veins/capillaries are... your heart's cadence will be the same... Its like a signature... do you really think these engineers and investors would have not researched whether or not this product had variables that would allow for disruption?? All of you techies really need to open a book that doesn't deal in Quantum encryption...blahzay blahzay

OTA
10th September, 2013 @ 09:22 pm PDT

This will make it fun when I haven't taken my a-fib meds recently...

Jean Lamb
24th September, 2013 @ 08:39 pm PDT
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