Bionym’s Nymi: bringing ‘persistent security’ to the masses

Toronto-based Bionym finally demoed their heartbeat authentication bracelet , Nymi, in front of a live audience of the latest We Are Wearables meetup in Toronto on Monday.

Designed and (almost) brought to market after six years of research at the University of Toronto, Nymi is the first product to be introduced to the wearables marketplace using an individual’s unique ECG (or heartbeat signature) as an authentication marker.

Bionym CEO, Karl Martin, and president Andrew D’Souza, have built a product to help erase the friction of constantly having to prove who we are. By making identity easier, the Nymi has become one of the world’s first products to offer people “persistent identity.”

Bionym CEO and President
Bionym’s founders were interviewed at a Toronto event on Monday.

The following demo video shows use case examples of the Nymi product in use:

Tom Emrich, founder and host of the Toronto-based wearables meetup asked Martin why the team decided to build a wearable rather than another type of identity product such as an all-in-one identity card.

“We thought of game consoles too,” answered Martin. “We decided on a wearable because it just made sense from the perspective of solving the problem of persistent identity.”

Yevgeniy Vahlis, chief cryptographer of the Nymi, also explained that the combination of hardware and code unique to the Bionym environment contained in a Nymi bracelet on the individual’s wrist (authenticated via their heartbeat) makes the Nymi almost impossible to hack. “The Nymi as a product also has security as a built-in feature.”

The Bioynm Executive Team
Bionym’s executive team on stage at Toronto’s wearables meetup.

The obvious next step in the Nymi story is the opportunity trusted companies will have with those who own the smart bracelets. Imagine the opportunities available to both consumers and retailers (and public service providers such as health care services) when cookie-type tracking stops becoming persistent and adversarial. Instead, experiences become available when consumers knowingly share their identity to access products and services.

For example, someone might be using their Nymi-band to access their vehicle. After a certain amount of use (over months or years) the car manufacturer may send that individual a private notification letting them know that their lease or car can be exchanged for a newer model. In the health industry, the implications are huge. In the future, the Nymi might be able to send a private notification to your personal healthcare professional in case it notices any strange heartbeat irregularities.

The Bionym team does not 100 per cent self-identify as a wearable or a biometrics company. They see themselves as a company that hopes to solve the problem of people always having to prove their identity: this is what they define as persistent identity. At the same time, they do have big dreams: “We see ourselves as the iPhone of wearable devices,” says D’Souza. “It’s like Cheers. Everybody knows your name.”

That is, everybody whom you want to.

Karim Kanji
Karim Kanji
Karim Kanji is the Canadian Director of Social Media Strategy at iNvolved Media. iNvolved Media was purchased by Active International in 2015. Clients include popular food brands, technology brands and other CPG companies. Prior to joining iNvolved Media, Karim led the paid social media strategy for some of Canada's most popular CPG and confectionery brands for Catalyst/GroupM. Karim started in the social media space when he co-founded and was the President of THIRDOCEAN where he led the creation of digital content for companies including Scotiabank, Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, Microsoft, Wild Water Kingdom, Palomino Systems Inc. and Techvibes. Karim has also been recognized as a pioneer in podcasting having interviewed people such as such as federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, former MLSE boss Richard Peddie, TVO's Steve Paikin, Canadian serial angel investor Dr. Boris Wertz, HootSuite founder Ryan Holmes, Mathew Ingram, Mitch Joel from Mirium and many, many others. As a demonstration of thought leadership, Karim led the development and execution of reports discussing how technology and digital media have impacted industries such as retail, education, health, gaming, sports and banking.

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