06 September 2013

Nymi wristband turns your heartbeat into an electronic key that unlocks your devices

Just about every device we use nowadays should be locked when not in use. You don’t want anyone being able to access your phone, your tablet, or your gaming and work computers. This creates a tedious amount of unlocking your devices before you want to use them. The Nymi wristband saves you that minimal but admittedly tedious trouble, and uses the unique signature of your heartbeat to do so.

It’s not really that much of a pain to swipe in a little zigzag pattern or type in a four-digit passcode, but it’s good practice to use a different pattern, number, or phrase for each device and account you use. When all of the different passwords begin to blur into one, this can make the tedious process of having to unlock your phone every time you get a text message or want to check Twitter even more tedious. Using an NFC-enabled object to unlock your devices is easy enough, but if someone snags your phone and your NFC fob, then it’s much easier to access the contents of your device than if they were passcode-protected. Startup Bionym aims to correct this issue by way of keying a wristband to the unique beat of your heart, making sure the only way your devices will unlock is if you’re the person wearing the accessory.

The Nymi wristband uses ECG authentication to unlock your iOS and Android devices, as well as your Windows and OS X computers. ECG authentication isn’t the wristband’s only trick, as it can also measure distance from your wrist to a device, recognize certain gestures to activate motion-sensitive devices, and make payments. Sensors in the device are able to measure a person’s heartbeat, and can identify the subtleties of a heartbeat in order to differentiate it from another.

The device takes your heartbeat when you put it on, then essentially erases the heartbeat when you take it off. It reactivates when you put it back on, pairing with your devices once again. This way, if your Nymi gets stolen, it won’t provide access to your devices. Thanks to the wristband’s ECG authentication, a bagman in the mobster movie that is your life can’t lop off your wrist in order to access the secure bank account info you keep on your phone — your disembodied hand won’t be connected to your heartbeat anymore.

Of course, Nymi’s potential is tied to other platforms — such as a bank’s ATM, for example — including Nymi compatibility, rather than having to make Nymi compatible with other platforms.

So far, after testing the device on 1,000 people, Nymi was found to be more accurate than facial recognition, and about as accurate as fingerprint authentication. The benefit of Nymi over fingerprint authentication, though, is that you only have to worry about someone cutting your wrist off because they find it fun, rather than to buy a bunch of Steam games using your phone app’s account.

Now read: Lock your PC - but not your screen - with KeyFreeze


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