Nymi Bracelet Turns Heartbeat into a Password

Forget fingerprints, your cardiac rhythm may be the future of unlocking private information

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As recent hacks into news outlets have shown, cybercrime is becoming increasingly problematic and a concern for online privacy. According recent estimates, more than 90 percent of passwords will be vulnerable to hackers, so experts implore netizens to constantly refresh passwords and replace old standbys with a complex combination of numbers, symbols and case-sensitive characters. But what if you could seamlessly control all pins and passwords with something as unique as a heartbeat?



A new bracelet from Toronto-based company Bionym Inc. is creating a cuff that tracks a user’s heartbeat and has potential to control devices in substitute of old-fashioned passwords. The bracelet, Nymi, is currently just a prototype, but works by registering a user’s electrocardiogram (EKG), which is the same tool doctors use to measure heartbeats, and encodes it into the bracelet. Unlike fingerprints or retina scans, other examples of biometrics, EKGs are not easily forged or lifted.

(MORE: Building a Better Password)

When an individual puts on the bracelet, it syncs with a smartphone app, which confirms a match in heartbeat and authenticates a user to all devices locked by the bracelet. According to the promotional video, the cuff has potential to control computers, tablets, and banking accounts, unlock car doors or even pay for coffee by waving a hand at the register. The system uses Bluetooth Low Energy to wirelessly connect to devices, and contains an accelerometer and gyroscope to recognize gestures and proximity to devices.  

Taking off the Nymi results in resetting the heartbeat identification, as it will not work until another EKG measurement is taken and authenticated. Losing a bracelet means it cannot be used again since the system is in sync with the owner’s heartbeat.

Though the bracelet is not available yet, Nymi is slated to ship in 2014, and is available for pre-order for $79 for the first 25,000 customers and $99 for all others. It will work with Android, iOS, Macs and Windows systems. 

MORE: Your Ears: The Next High-Tech ID