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Posted: 06:56:59 PM, 24/11/2014

Your heartbeat enables wireless device access

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A Canadian company has put a new spin on the biometric identification technology by using peoples heartbeats to allow them to wirelessly access their devices -- including their smartphone, computer, car, or even their home.

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Bionym, founded in 2011 as a spinoff of the University of Toronto, has developed a wrist-worn device called the Nymi Band which measures a persons unique electrical signal to identify them for device security and access. Kurt Barlett, marketing and public relations manager for Bionym, said university researchers began developing the technology more than six years before the company was formed, meaning the band is the result of more than 10 years of R&D.

bionym_nymi_black_top.jpg

The Nymi Band from Bionym, a company spun off from the University of Toronto, uses a persons heartbeat to authenticate them for wireless access to devices.(Source: Bionym)

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The Nymi Band works on the principle that a persons heartbeat is unique to them and so can be used just like a fingerprint to identify them. The band is ready to work as soon as its clasped around a persons wrist. When a wearer places a finger on the topside sensor while the wrist is in contact with the bottom sensor, an electrical circuit is completed that activates a sensor, sending a vibration and illuminating LEDs that let a person know its ready to go.

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When a user receives their Nymi Band, they will need to set a biometric template, Bartlett explained. Then, every time the Nymi Band is put on it is necessary to activate it by matching your electrocardiogram (ECG) to your template. Once your Nymi Band is activated it can persistently communicate your identity to your services and devices through Bluetooth Low Energy. It remains activated until the Nymi Band is unclasped, meaning if will only work for its user.

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The Nymi Band uses a three-factor security system that includes the band itself, a wearer's heartbeat, and an authorized authentication device, such as a smartphone thats registered with the Nymi's accompanying app. Only the person using the band has access to their identity and personal information, Bartlett said.

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The Nymi Band is not yet commercially available but Bionym is taking pre-orders at a price of ?4,787.88 ($79) per band. However, developers and other Bionym partners working on applications already have early versions of the product so they can finalize their applications, Bartlett said.

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In addition to being used to replace PINs or passwords for devices or other applications that require user authentication, Bionym also is working with MasterCard and RBC on a pilot program to use the band for wireless payments.

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Elizabeth Montalbano

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