Nymi Wristband Checks Your Identity

Wearables will be the next big trend in 2014 with massive launch of the Google Glass, smartwatches (yes, they are already here, but not so popular yet), gesture controllers (take MYO or advanced version of the Leap Motion controller if they design one).

Let’s take a look at one of the most existing devices (according to the video trailer, of course). It is called Nymi (what a phonetical candy!) and it is a sexy Bluetooth wristband. Main idea is a personal authentication, but it also has many other neat features.

Company has a good promotional video, which shows how our life will change in the next 2-3 years.

Basically, functions can be split into the following categories:

  • Personal device authentication. No need to enter password and pins into numerous computer devices. System checks your EKG (Electrocardiography) and creates a unique profile.
  • Car access. I brought it into a separate bonus option. Movie shows how you can unlock and drive Tesla S car without keys and remote controllers. I believe, same principle can be applied to create bicycle locks, for example.
  • “NFC” access. Why quotes? Because it is still Bluetooth, but principle remains same — accessing locked doors (hotels, offices, maybe even your own home).
  • Gesture control. It can act as a MYO controller — you turn your hand and some activity is performed.
  • Payments. This will surely not work out of the box but there are already some NFC payment technologies, most likely credit cards will disappear sooner or later and Nymi option can conquer the world.
  • Cloud freedom. That’s just a nice add-on, not related directly with Nymi. Ability to view your files not only on different devices but also on a TV of your hotel room. Or a picture of your family, appearing on the digital frame when system confirms you are, say, Mr X.

Additional features include ability to automatically lock your devices, car etc, when you walk away by simply losing the signal. Also, creators claim that wristband is just an initial idea, but in future same technology can be put into rings or pendants.

Nymi Wristband ColorsOf course, it cannot be without serious concerns, mainly about authentication part of Nymi. Some people doubt that reliable secure EKG pattern can be measured by such a tiny device and by just placing a finger on the sensor. Bionym team (company behind Nymi) ensures that this is enough for secure and reliable authentication. I am not specialist in this area, but I really do not have doubts in their confidence, as preorders are already accepted and device is due to be shipped in the beginning of 2014.

There is one paradox related with the ease of EKG authentication though. If reading secure EKG profile is so easy, then what prevents it from being stolen? Bad guy can touch you with the sensor in the crowd, read your “identity” (EKG profile), flash it into hacked device and get access to everything you have. Sounds scary. But as I understood, technology requires not only unique owner’s EKG, but exact Nymi device as well and if its “key” (parameters) cannot be easily hacked, then thief will have to steal device.

Bluetooth signal should also be highly secured (like car alarm controls), so that it is not simply intercepted and decoded, of course.

Another concern raised is related to physical activity and people with heart disorders. Activity can affect authentication, so it is better not to run during this process. But afterwards, device works itself by checking if it is on the owner or not. This is done by sensors and repetitive EKG reading not needed.

Heart disorders is another topic. Developers are pretty sure that most of such health issues will not affect their method, but it has not yet been tested too much, so remains a semi-open question.

Nymi needs active power and Bionym assures that it can last for about one week without charge. Good if it is really true as battery is a weak unit in most of the modern devices (except pure NFC ones and e-ink readers).

No plans to integrate technology in other devices as developers want initial wristband version to be launched as soon as possible. I would like to see a small screen there on top, kinda of symbiosis between Nymi and smartwatch. Though maybe it is too bulky then.

Finally, software programmers can get access to API and help to spread the usage of Nymi by altering their apps. Bionym promises that at least device unlock feature should work on Android quite soon.

Price is quite reasonable at $79 (+ 10$ shipping), expect it to be sent out in the first half of 2014 (no exact dates yet). It is available in three colors — black, white and orange, check Nymi website for details.

UPDATE: Just saw news from Phys.org that Apple got patent on heart-rate monitoring and this can mean not only tracking for sport purposes, but also biometric authentication similar to Nymi.