by Qasir Sheikh
I had a chance to hear about Nymi from the Bionym team (a University of Toronto start-up) in April 2014 and came away impressed with the product and what the team was trying to do.
Here’s the situation: your tech is private (please don’t read my emails Google) and it doesn’t have unlimited resources (yes smartphone battery, I’m talking about you) so in order to be of maximum use, it asks you to verify yourself before opening itself up. And for the most part, that means passwords. If you are who you say you are, then you better remember your mother’s maiden name or that thing that rhymes with orange. We’ve all had to deal with entering our passwords to access emails, to check our credit card statements and, and most dreadful of all, to access our smartphones. What all these password interactions boil down to is friction with the digital world. This constant need to actively prove your identity to your machines is that bothersome friction in our lives that takes away from what we’re trying to do with our machines. Like being forced to tap in your pass code before you can capture that candid moment with your phone or typing in your 14 digit bank account number before you can pay your bills.
Enter the Nymi, a wearable wristband that authenticates a user’s identity through their electrocardiogram (ECG), which is a unique biometric. The Nymi is designed to make identity easy -- to let devices and services connect with a person's identity in a secure and privacy-protective manner. The Nymi can replace any modern prompt for identity, and every experience can be tailored to user. The Nymi’s ECG recognition algorithms observe the shape of the ECG waveform, extracting unique and consistent features that are a result of a user’s physiology.
But even heartbeats can be faked so The ECG biometric is only one element of a multi-factor security system, which also requires the possession of the secure wristband and an additional personal device, such as a smart phone and tablet, when the wristband is first put on. This multi-factor system sets the Nymi apart in consumer biometrics for both security and convenience.
So, when the Nymi is activated it communicates a secure, digitally signed identity credential via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to your smart devices (everything from a smartphone, to a vehicle, to a
locked door). Actually, it’s not just communicating identity that makes the Nymi so revolutionary. It’s also the way the Nymi is able to interact with technology once a user is authenticated. The Nymi features an accelerometer and gyroscope for simple gesture recognition, and also uses the Bluetooth radio for proximity detection. That means, a Nymi wearer can use movement and proximity to dynamically interact with the technology that makes up their life.