Why It's One to Watch: The wristband is expected to ship in 2014 and could offer a simple way to unlock mobile banking apps, car doors and other things of value. The product comes at a time when consumers and businesses are struggling to solve the problems of ineffective passwords that are easy to forget.
Spotting an opportunity to identify people by their heartbeats, this young Canadian company began building a wearable computing device for the lesser known biometric.
In September, the startup unveiled its vision in the form of a wristwatch called Nymi that will ship in early 2014. More than 5,000 consumers preordered the device within four weeks of its debut.
"Identity and security have been ripe for disruption for a long time," says Karl Martin, chief executive and president. "There hasn't been innovation. Products are hard to use from the end-user perspective."
Bionym says its wristband will serve unlimited identity roles like opening up cars as well as unlocking mobile banking and enterprise apps eventually. "Every day, we use identity for multiple purposes," Martin says. "There can be solutions such as ours to change the way people think about identity."
Nymi measures an electrocardiogram (ECG), a recording and interpretation of the bioelectrical activity of the heart, when a user touches his opposite hand to the wristband. The device then communicates with an app running on a tablet, smartphone or computer to see if the reading is a match with the user's prerecorded heartbeat. Nymi, which comes with an embedded ECG sensor, motion sensor and Bluetooth low-energy radio, keeps the user authenticated until he takes off the device.
For now, the heartbeat templates are stored on devices rather than the cloud.
In early October, Bionym was readying its formal program for developers to create apps to bypass passwords and integrate Nymi into other systems, among other things.
"We have interest from major electronic companies and we will be co-developing there," says Martin.
About 10 people work at Bionym and Martin expects to add about seven employees by yearend.
How the wearable computing market will shake out is top of mind for the startup. Bionym gets asked why it refrained from embedding its software into an existing smartwatch. "The answer is we aren't looking to put all of our eggs in one wearable segment," Martin says. "Nobody knows where it is going."