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Forget passwords -- the Nymi wristband uses your heartbeat for security

Sharon Gaudin | Sept. 29, 2014
Bionym's wearable device could secure smartphones, apps, cars and even airports.

He noted that the company has been in talks with MasterCard and its partner banks, a few airlines, hotel chains, auto makers and even government agencies.

The device works by checking for the electrical signals from your heart the second you put it on. The electrical signals based in the heart -- different from your heart rate - are unique for each person, like a fingerprint.

"It can tell that it's you wearing the device and then it goes into an authentication state," D'Souza explained. "It becomes secure. It confirms it's on your wrist and it's you wearing the device so it authenticates your security."

If the clasp on the wristband opens or if the wristband is cut, the authentication ends, adding a layer of security to the device.

As for privacy, D'Souza said the user decides what apps and devices the Nymi can connect with. If you don't want the airline or your car to know you're there, they won't.

"This is the future of authentication, taking body signals or markers that only one person has," said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy. "Fingerprint, retinal and vein identifications are here, but require clunky machines to make them work. Wristbands are much more convenient."

The convenience of being able to move about your day without remembering passwords or carrying keys, a credit card or ID might interest a lot of people. "Consumers would flock to a device on their wrists that would securely let them in doors, breeze through airport security and get into your PCs," said Moorhead.

Though he noted concerns about what happens if someone hacks into the device, he still thinks it could limit human mistakes and provide more security than a password -- especially poorly done passwords.

Kagan expects many authentication devices to hit the market in the next several years.

"I don't think any single idea is going to satisfy the entire marketplace," he said. "I think over the next decade we will be playing around with many different solutions. What we will eventually decide on for everyone is still a big question. We will have to wait and see. However, there is a big and growing market, so if it's a good idea, and it works well, and it's priced well, it stands a good chance of succeeding as one slice of the pie."

 

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