It’s Tuesday morning, and you’re headed for work, coffee in hand, and your mind is elsewhere. Suddenly, the door slams, and you’ve left your keys inside! Today, you’ll be late. But soon, a simple wristband will be able to unlock your car for you, along with your phone, computer, and front door.
Nymi by Bionym isn’t your typical band. Invented by a group of University of Toronto graduates, Nymi is a wearable piece of biotechnology that functions as a personal key, doing away with the need for passwords, fingerprint scanners, and metal keys.
The world’s first wearable authentication device, Nymi uses an individual’s unique heartbeat read with an embedded electrocardiogram (ECG) sensor. It's a flexible, waterproof band that charges with a USB cable.
“We are interested in creating a streamlined, dynamic world without passwords, PINs, and keys,” says Kurt Bartlett, a representative for Bionym.
In addition to tracking a user’s unique heartbeat, Nymi also requires two more steps in a three-step security process to verify identity: a user’s own registered Nymi and a smartphone with the Nymi app installed. If you’re a techie with no time (or more likely, a busy working mom), Nymi could be a secure way to save yourself time and frustration.
“It's not just convenience we want to provide, but an identity-based, tech-centric lifestyle,” Bartlett says.
'These Are Not the Droids You're Looking For'
The scientific community has been actively exploring ECG verification technologies for the past decade, Bartlett says. While your heart rate does change throughout the day and during different activities, from exercising to sleeping, the Nymi reads and verifies your heart rate as a wave, with constant, unique flow patterns.
In addition to acting as a key, the Nymi can also be outfitted with kinetic commands, which means you may be able to unlock things with just a flick of your (Nymi-clad) wrist.
Wearable identification could also be very useful in medical and trauma fields where a patient wouldn’t need to be lucid to communicate their personal information; doctors could simply look it up if given access by the user.
“This has huge potential in healthcare, offering practitioners new ways of accessing information in sterile and active environments,” Bartlett says.
Fitting the Masses
To create a product that works for all people, regardless of shape, size, and activity level was a challenge.
“We were surprised just how much variation there is [among people]. During industrial design, a lot of effort had to be put into making a universally usable product,” Bartlett says.
Available in black, white, and orange, the Nymi has gotten at least one thing right that your smartphone maker hasn’t—it can last for a full week on a single charge.
Doing away with passwords, keys, and—perhaps one day—even ID cards seems a great step forward in the age of online identity theft. And Nymi users can take it to heart (literally) that the developers are Nymi wearers themselves.
“Identity and privacy have to go hand-in-hand. That's why we really value transparency. All of the components of the Nymi were created by the principles of Privacy By Design,” Bartlett says.
However, there is a loophole. Users can opt-in and create a key to share with others. So, much like in real life, how much of yourself you share is up to you. The Nymi is available now for pre-order at $79 for the first 25,000 orders and $99 after that. Bionym expects to deliver the Nymi in early 2014.
Photo courtesy of www.getnymi.com.