Bionym releases developer hardware in pursuit of ‘persistent identity’

SAN FRANCISCO — Toronto-based Bionym launched its first wearable technology hardware  that anyone outside the company can get their hands – or, make that wrists – on Tuesday, taking its persistent identity platform closer to general availability.

Developers have been working with emulator technology of Nymi Bands (dubbed the “Nymulator”) since the summer. Bionym’s wrist-band has sensors that can read a person’s heart beat pattern and software that can identify the unique pattern, using it as a signature to authenticate identity in a way that is always on. Developers have been working on applications such as physical access control – unlocking doors when someone who’s both authorized to enter and wearing a Nymi Band approaches, without need for a key or number code.

Bionym will be accepting applications from developers that have worked with the Nymulator and are interested in testing on real hardware. Bionym will be reviewing video demonstrations of the apps and sending out Nymi Bands to the most interesting projects free of charge.

Wearing the teal developer version of Nymi Band at Dreamforce, the annual conference hosted by, Bionym president Andrew D’Souza says he’s excited at the prospect of what an external developer community will do with the hardware and he’s hoping to see the boundaries pushed.

“What we’re really excited about is people that get this concept of persistent authentication,” he says. “Establishing and maintaining a level of trust rather than having to do these frequent touch points to re-authenticate.”

Anyone that has ever forgotten a password, punched in a PIN wrong at an ATM, or forgot the keys to their car can relate to the problem that Bionym wants to solve. Wearing a wrist band that very confidently identifies you – no two people in the world share the same heart beat signature – and can relay that information to nearby access points could remove friction in many scenarios. An enterprise with office areas that house high-value assets could ensure only authorized employees access that space, or a hotel that wants to enable a VIP experience could hand out wrist bands to guests for a personalized experience.

The goal, according to D’Souza, is to get to the point where people don’t have to constantly prove who they are in order to start interacting with a business – they automatically do so just by wearing a Nymi Band.

“If we can shift the interaction so we can say ‘welcome’ first, then we can get a much richer customer interaction experience,” D’Souza says.

Being at Dreamforce during the important announcement is no coincidence. The venture capital wing of Salesforce invested in Bionym’s recent Series A fundraising round and the company has been working with the Salesforce Wear initiative, which arms developers with the APIs needed to integrate the Salesforce platform onto various wearable devices.

“They’ve been huge supporters, they are one of these companies that are always getting involved in pioneering new platforms,” D’souza says. Salesforce has a vision of a more effective workplace and richer interactions with customers, all thanks to wearables.

A demo that Bionym shows off at its booth serves as an example. It has used Salesforce to create an app for a fictional hotel, and D’Souza plays the role of a guest. Simply by shaking his Nymi Band, an iPad detects his presence and displays his profile to a concierge. The concierge can also send a simple vibration to his band, perhaps signalling that his room is ready.

“If you think about a high-end hotel that gives Nymi wrist bands to their VIPs, they can walk around that location and get a hyper-personalized environment,” he says.

While today’s announcement is about hardware, Nymi’s focus is on creating a platform for persistent identity. It will be looking to its developer community and early adopters to help hone how that works and what services it can enable. After it gets over the hurdle of getting apps to talk to wearables in order to establish trust, Nymi could start to take different forms.

“Whether or not it’s our own hardware or its something else with embedded Nymi, that’s not important,” D’Souza says. “I’m sure we’ll see Nymi functionality in other devices in the coming years.”

Bionym’s pre-order hardware is next up on the release schedule. D’Souza says to expect it this fall.

Check back later on Tuesday for a video demo of the Nymi Band working with a Salesforce-built mobile app.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Brian Jackson
Brian Jackson
Editorial director of IT World Canada. Covering technology as it applies to business users. Multiple COPA award winner and now judge. Paddles a canoe as much as possible.

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