A security firm from Canada has unveiled a device which they say could replace our need for computer passwords, PIN numbers, screen locks and keys.
The Nymi bracelet, made by Bionym, can be worn on the wrist and monitors the wearer’s cardiac rhythm which is as unique to them as their fingerprints are. Via a sensor which reads the electrocardiogram (ECG) of the wearer the wristband can detect when it has come into close proximity of a paired device such as a computer, tablet, phone or car and then unlock them by authenticating the users’ heartbeat.
The bracelet has many other functions too such as making authenticated payments and opening hotel rooms – as seen in the following video (My personal favourite is the use of the motion sensor to open the car boot):
Bionym’s chief executive, Karl Martin, told TechHive that, “The modern research into practical systems goes back about 10 years or so. What we do is ultimately look for the unique features in the shape of the wave that will also be permanent over time. The big breakthrough was a set of signal-processing and machine-learning algorithms that find those features reliably and to turn them into a biometric template.”
Bionym see their device being one part of a three factor authentication setup with Martin saying that, “the Nymi is part of a three factors of security: the unique band itself, your ECG, and a dedicated app, which will be available for iOS, Android, Windows, and Mac OSX.”
Due to the nature of the technology Martin believes that there is virtually no possibility of false positives and that the accuracy of the device is on a par with facial recognition and fingerprint identification.
The Nymi certainly sounds like it has some advantages over other forms of biometrics. If you take fingerprints, for example, then constant reauthentication is likely to be required. Also, there is always a chance that the fingerprint used does not come from the expected source, as highlighted by Daniel Dresner in a recent comment on Neira Jones’ blog:
“Some years ago, I remember an auditor who was assigned an overseas security audit (27001) of a tax office. Whilst he commended them for the pile of laptops which appeared to have fingerprint readers being attached to them, they shuffled their feet nervously. The laptops were having the biometrics removed. One of their inspectors was accosted by two thugs on a scooter who yanked his laptop bag from him. Not being the brightest button on the waistcoat, the taxman yelled that it was unusable without his thumb…so they took that too.”
If the Nymi (shipping early 2014 at a cost of $79 / £50) proves to be a popular authentication device then I guess we will just have to hope that no-one ever learns how to hack our hearts.