Startup Releases Biometric Bracelet

By Brian Rhodes, Published Sep 13, 2013, 12:00am EDT

Using your heartbeat to open doors just got a step closer to reality. Startup Bionym is raising funds and interest for a biometric bracelet it coined 'Nymi' that uses your individual beat signature to activate your identity. Where can the product be used, and is it ready for the 'big leagues'? In this note we take a look.

A Universal Credential

[Note: see our previous profile on Bionym's heartbeat credential concept.]

Essentially, Nymi is a credential that is only activated by detecting the user's specific heartbeat, and can be applied anywhere confirming user ID is important- logical or physical access control alike. The device, worn on the wrist like a watch, contains a number of features:

  • Cardiac Rhythm Activated: Heartbeats have individuality, just like fingerprints or iris scans. Nymi only shares credential information when the wearer's heartbeat matches the identity of the bracelet owner. Unlike a PIN number that can be shared or card that is useful to anyone, Nymi only works if the credentialed user is wearing it.
  • Bluetooth (BLE) Networked: Nymi uses BLE to wirelessly communicate with interfaced devices. Any BLE enabled endpoint can communicate with Nymi using standard protocol.
  • Motion Sensor: Nymi also supports discrete functions according to the user's 'gestures'. For example, twisting the user's wrist clockwise while inside a car will turn it on, while a counterclockwise twist turns it off.

Catch the developer's promo video below:

Nymi is being presold in three colors [link no longer available]: Black, White, or Orange for ~$90. After projected release in 2014, the price bumps to ~$100.

Access Potential

The video touches on the prospect for access control applications, showing a concept where Nymi's BLE chip links up with an EAC system to open doors:

Using BLE in this application is not unique, as several other access product (ie: Lockitron, Kevo) use it in the same way. 

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Development Needed

At current, Bionym's presell of Nymi aims to generate buzz and interest in the device's potential. The startup wants to put Nymi in the hands of those in the developer community that will write integrations for payment systems, consumer electronics, Access Control locks, and even 'Smart Houses'.

However, at current, the company offers no production implementations, only concepts.

Where's the Watch?

One of the biggest physical shortcomings of Nymi's design is that it lacks a watch. ...or any other utility aside from being a credential. People's wrists are not exactly 'cheap real estate', and to ask someone to wear a bracelet that only provides one function is a big demand.

Indeed, even products like Nike Fuel Band, used to quantify activity and health, also provides a time piece. Even if vast applications using Nymi are developed, unless the bracelet adds additional features, it may be a hard sell to replace 'traditional' credentials that double as photo IDs or are carried on multifunction devices like smartphones.

Biometrics Contrast

Nymi draws natural comparisons to the range of biometric credentials/readers already employed in access, but with several sharp differences:

  • Cost: Compared to traditional credentials, Nymi is expensive. Smartcards can be issued for less than $10 each, while Nymi cost ~$100 each.
  • Plug 'n Play: Nymi is being sold as a concept and does not work in it's current version with any access system.
  • Ease of Use: Here, Nymi ultimately has the advantage. Traditional finger or palm scanners require gloves to be removed, face rec may require hats, scarves, and glasses to be taken off, but Nymi works wirelessly. The bracelet can even be worn under clothing like jackets or coats and still be read.

Company Profile

Bionym is composed of several biometric engineers [link no longer available] and technical types and is backed by a host of investors including mobile technology specialists Relay Ventures [link no longer available] and multiple individuals with credential industry track records.

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