Heartbeat-Sensing Wristband Doubles as Bitcoin Wallet

Nermin Hajdarbegovic
Feb 4, 2014 at 17:15 UTC
Updated Feb 4, 2014 at 17:21 UTC

Canadian wearable-tech startup Boinym has launched a biometric bitcoin wallet that relies on its Nymi smart wristband for authentication.

The Nymi wristband has a clever way of confirming the user’s identity: it scans the wearer’s heartwave using an electrocardiogram (ECG) sensor and matches its pattern to the one stored in its database. This offers ’always on’ authentication, as it doesn’t require any input from the user, and should function for as long as the user has a pulse.

Bionym released the Nymi software development kit (SDK) last November and said at the time that it already had in excess of 7,000 pre-orders.

Tap to spend

The combination of a simple wallet and sustained authentication means that users can authenticate their private bitcoin key on the fly.

The wallet is physically stored on the Nymi, says Bionym’s Chief Cryptographer, Yevgeniy Vahlis, and thanks to its multi-factor authentication system, ensures secure bitcoin storage. All the user has to do to make a transaction is tap the wristband, no additional input is necessary.

It is also possible to back up the key on an offline device, just in case the user happens to lose the wristband.

Bionym’s President, Andrew D’Souza, points out that people who have heard about bitcoin tend to associate it with risks and the Nymi should address some of them. He also makes a bold claim:

“Every Nymi will ship with the most secure Bitcoin wallet – it could be the killer app.”

Incidentally, the wristband can also be used to do what smart wristbands do best – track your physical activity and integrate with fitness apps.

Seamless authentication

D’Souza says Bionym is looking at the bigger picture and working to develop seamless check-in procedures for hotels and airlines.

The ultimate goal, he says, is to do for personal identification what the iPhone did for phones. However, unlike the iPhone, Nymi is an open-source platform and could be used to add more applications without moderation from the manufacturer. In other words, if the concept takes off, it could be integrated with existing bitcoin wallets, as well as other services requiring secure authentication.

ECG readings are practically impossible to replicate and are unique, like fingerprints. This makes them an ideal biometric signal for authentication, unless you happen to wear a pacemaker, perhaps.

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