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Brief Published: 12 Sep 2013

Nymi: Heartbeats as Passwords

Nymi wristband

Toronto-based biometrics firm Bionym has developed a prototype for an electronic wristband that confirms the wearer’s identity by measuring the pattern of the wearer’s heartbeat. 

The Nymi wristband, which captures the wearer’s unique heart rhythm via electrocardiogram (ECG) sensors, could be used instead of passwords to access computers, mobile devices and even payment services. The device is available for preorder for $79. It is due to be shipped in early 2014. 

To activate the Nymi, the user must place the device around the wrist while touching a sensor on its top with one hand to create a complete electrical circuit. The wristband then uses Bluetooth to sync with an accompanying mobile app, which confirms the heart rhythm and provides access as required.

Unlike rival biotech devices, the Nymi does not require the wearer to authenticate each time access is required. It also contains a gyroscope and accelerometer to recognise gestures, which could enable users to unlock car doors with wrist movements in the future.

Part of the Nymi’s appeal lies in its security. A person’s heartbeat is unique and nearly impossible to replicate, unlike fingerprints. Meanwhile, traditional passwords are losing favour amid continuing security concerns: global financial consultancy Deloitte has forecast that more than 90% of user-generated passwords will be vulnerable to hacking in 2013.

For more on the potential applications of recognition and gesture-controlled tech, see the Stylus reports The Science of Recognition and SXSWi: The New User Interface.