Biometric Authentication From A Wristband
September 4, 2013

Bionym Unveils Wearable Biometric Authentication Device

[ Watch the Video: Wear Your Password On Your Wrist ]

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Toronto-based startup Bionym launched its wearable wristband biometric recognition system this week, and is offering its first 25,000 customers a special pre-order price of $79.

The wristband, dubbed Nymi, is expected to ship in early 2014, the company said.

The device authenticates identity by matching the overall shape of the user’s heartwave as captured via an embedded electrocardiogram sensor. However, unlike other biotech authentication methods such as fingerprinting and facial recognition technology, Nymi doesn’t require the user to authenticate every time they want to unlock something. Rather, because the system is a wearable device, Nymi sustains authentication until it is removed from the user.

The Nymi’s authentication technology is based on Bionym co-founder Foteini Agragioti’s PhD research. The system allows the wristband to recognize unique ECG patterns based on heart size, shape and position within the body. The Nymi then interfaces directly with mobile devices (via Bluetooth) as a replacement for passwords and PIN numbers.

Bionym said Nymi is a three-factor security system, since multiple pieces must be in place to achieve authentication. However, the system averts some of the hassles of conventional multi-factor systems by maintaining an authenticated state and only requiring the user to provide biometric data once per day (or whenever they remove the device).

Bionym says the Nymi also supports simple, task-specific gesture commands using both motion sensors and proximity detection. This would allow users to, for instance, give a particular twist of their wrist to unlock a car door. However, that type of application would depend mostly on third party developers creating an app ecosystem around the device.

Bionym co-founder and chief executive Karl Martin said the company will launch a Nymi app on iOS, Android, Windows and Mac OSX, and will release an open-source software developer kit for the device in early fall.

“We want developers on board to bring value to the platform,” he said.

In an interview with Biometric Update, Martin stressed the importance of privacy, and of allowing users to have broad control of their identity.

“When it comes to identity, privacy is a chief concern. The Nymi has been built by the principles of Privacy by Design. This means that each user has complete control over their data and identity. Transparency is very important to Bionym’s culture, and every user has a right to know where their data is going.”

Bionym was founded in 2011, and recently closed a $1.4 million (CAD) round of seed funding. The company was originally spun out of the University of Toronto, where Martin earned his doctorate degree.