This is about a new wearable device that is only marginally a Health Tech product. The Nymi from Bionym is a bracelet that monitors your heartbeat, which sounds like it might be intended to help you with fitness or health issues. Its mission is very different, however; its designers hope it will replace your passwords and other digital identification tokens to give you a secure way of accessing everything from your computer to your car.
In our increasingly complex digital lives, the ability to establish our individual identity becomes more and more important, and we look to balance convenience with security. Biometric measures hold great promise for this task, and developers are exploring solutions ranging from fingerprint scanners to systems that read the pattern of blood vessels on your eyeball. The Nymi creates an interface between your body and your devices that you can carry with you at all times. When you put on the bracelet and press a button, the device will recognize you by the unique patterns of your heartbeat. It will then confirm your identity wirelessly throughout the day until you take it off. When you put it on the next day, you will have to repeat the recognition process.
The device also includes motion and proximity sensors, as well as Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) wireless connectivity. The creators’ hope is that it will be supported by devices ranging from tablets and computers to cars and credit card machines in retail settings. The company is accepting pre-orders for the device at $79, and the website indicates that they have received nearly 10,000 orders already. The website also indicates that shipments will start “mid-2014” and clearly that ship has sailed already; a blog entry on September 24, 2014 refers to “our ship date later this fall” though no date is specified. The company has received financial backing from Salesforce and MasterCard, however, so they have some big players supporting their platform.
From my perspective, the band itself is the very least of the Nymi system. We’ve already started to see other wearable consumer products that will include ECG capabilities, and those devices can do a lot more than just log onto your Facebook account. I believe the real future for Nymi is to build a secure biometric identity system that can be licensed and implemented by any wearable Health Tech device. That seems to be a much more practical approach than having a separate dedicated security device, and should be a lot more palatable for most users than inserting an RFID chip under your skin. Soon, we may be able to carry our digital identities with us easily, and as Confucius said, “wherever you may go, there you are.”