Toronto-based Bionym has struck a deal with MasterCard and a number of banks to do a pilot project where Canadians will use the wearable wrist band as a contactless payment method.

The Nymi Band, which reads its wearer’s heart beat to produce a unique cardio signature, provides a platform for persistent identity authentication – in other words, the ability to prove its you without having to answer a secret question, or type in a PIN or password. Bionym just shipped its hardware to developers in October and is gearing up for a full consumer launch. For the MasterCard pilot, it will be sending out a special NFC-chip enabled version of the Nymi Band that will be compatible MasterCard’s PayPass terminals.

“We’ve looked at payments as an important use case for some time,” says Andrew D’Souza, president of Bionym. “It’s really important and we’re solving a real problem in the industry at a level that hasn’t been done yet, even with Apple Pay.”

D’Souza spoke on the phone from Las Vegas, where he made the announcement at payments conference alongside MasterCard. The team is calling it the world’s first biometrically authenticated wearable payment pilot. So far, the Royal Bank of Canada is the only bank named as being involved in the pilot, but D’Souza says there are more to come.

“We should be able to cover a pretty significant portion of the population with all the banks we’re working with,” he says.

Where could the pilot lead? Banks could offer Nymi Bands to loyal customers or as an incentive to new customers, D’Souza says. Bionym is also working on a consumer version of the Nymi Band that includes an NFC chip and a consumer can load their own credentials. But that’s further down the road, he says.

The pilot program is another step in Bionym’s testing of use cases for its persistent identity platform.

“We totally agree people aren’t going to wear a single-use wearable,” D’Souza says. “There’s going to need to be a convergence.”

A Nymi Band that serves multiple functions around a person’s identity – such as offering convenient payment, unlocking doors in a secure workplace, and replacing passwords in software might be a compelling enough product on its own, he says.

Bionym is seeking volunteers interested in taking part in the pilot. It’s expected to begin early in the new year.

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